Asus kicked off the hybrid craze with the first Transformer tablet and laptop dock running Android. It has continually iterated the product line, up through the impressive Transformer Prime model. It's now taking it to a whole new level with the Transformer Book Trio just unveiled at Computex in Taipei with both Android and Windows 8 inside.
The Transformer Book Trio is an Android tablet like earlier Transformer models but the similarity ends there. When the tablet is plugged into the laptop dock, which looks a lot like earlier models, the Trio becomes a full-fledged Windows 8 laptop due to the full hardware complement inside the dock.
Asus has essentially built an Android tablet with all the standard hardware in the slate, and also put a decent PC system in the laptop dock. The two OSes can be toggled as desired via a simple hotkey, as reported by Engadget's Dana Wollman. Run Windows when you wish, and switch to Android when that makes more sense.
The Windows 8 compatible hardware in the dock is not typical for hybrids as the Trio rocks a new Haswell Core i7 that accesses a 1TB hard drive. That massive storage is augmented by the 16GB of storage in the tablet. An Intel Atom is running the Android side in place of the standard ARM solutions. Both the tablet and the laptop dock have batteries that work together to supposedly provide decent battery life.
The Transformer Book Trio will no doubt be expensive due to the latest Intel processor and the dual nature of the hardware. It is essentially two full systems in one and it's unlikely one of them will be free.
Some are saying this dual system is a new category, but Lenovo did this back in 2010 with its U1 hybrid. I remember vividly stepping into a large room in the Mirage Hotel during the CES that year and having my eyes drawn to the U1 despite all the systems on display.
The U1 was first shown when Android was just a growing gleam in Andy Rubin's eye so Lenovo put its Skylight UI, a special Linux variant, to run the tablet. The laptop dock of the U1 had a full Intel-based Windows PC inside, much like that of the Transformer Prime Trio.
What impressed me so much with the U1 was the way the system automatically switched from Windows to Skylight when the tablet was removed from the dock. It wasn't just the quick switchover that was impressive, it was the fact that the two OSes inside the laptop were constantly communicating. This made it possible to pick up exactly where you were when one OS handed off control to the other.
My mind was blown when I was watching a YouTube video on the laptop in Windows, removed the tablet from the dock, and had a seamless OS switch that had the same video playing at the same exact place! The same transitions were possible in the web browser that was fantastic.
Lenovo didn't bring the U1 to market as expected, and the next year replaced the Skylight UI with Android, which was becoming more mainstream. I don't believe that model ever made it to the US, either.
The Asus Transformer Book Trio looks to be a fantastic Windows 8 laptop that becomes an Android tablet on demand. This is certainly versatile, although Windows 8 is designed to handle both laptops and tablets so it's not clear what the advantages will be to have Android on demand. Maybe all those Android apps in the Play Store will be the plus needed to justify what will certainly be an expensive solution. We'll have to wait to see how well the Trio works until the 3rd quarter release date.