Straddling the tablet/ laptop divide; Time for Android and iOS laptops

Summary:Some folks (myself included) are successfully using tablets with keyboards for work tasks. Is there a market for Android/ iOS laptops and if so, what do they need?

Some folks (myself included) have been able to shift a good portion of work tasks from conventional laptops to tablets. This usually involves pairing the tablet, Android or iPad, with a small external keyboard for handling lots of text entry. There are plenty of keyboard options for both Android tablets and the iPad, and even slick two-piece tablets like the ASUS Transformer Prime. Whatever the solution that folks are using, it is interesting how many folks are straddling the tablet/ laptop divide.

My coverage of using both the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab with keyboards is extensive, and I am constantly amazed how much of my work can be accomplished with these combos. While not everyone's work is appropriate to be performed without a Windows or Mac laptop, the more I talk to folks the more of them I hear from who are able to leave the laptop behind and go the tablet/ keyboard route.

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Even though I am using the tablet/ keyboard combo for more and more of my work, I still use the tablet without the keyboard at least half the time. That's not the case with quite a few folks with whom I have discussed this; I am hearing from many that they are mostly leaving the tablet docked in the keyboard almost all of the time. This has me wondering if there is a viable market for a Android and iOS laptops?

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If there is a significant enough interest for Android and iOS laptops, a few criteria would have to be met to be successful. Size is important, as a dedicated laptop shouldn't be larger than existing two-piece combos being used today. It would make no sense to trade existing solutions for a dedicated laptop if the size and weight increased. I personally wouldn't be interested in a laptop solution if the screen was bigger than 10 inches. The beauty of these two-piece systems are how small they are. Let's keep the same for the laptop solution.

A laptop with iOS or Android would also have to be cheaper than the two-piece varieties. That should be feasible given there's nothing new about the laptop form. Make these mobile laptops very thin and light, and cheaper than tablets plus external keyboards.

I used to think laptops with touch screens were a waste of money, but on an Android or iOS laptop I think they are required. Both of these OSes are optimized for touch operation, and it makes sense to take advantage of that on these little laptops.

One of the coolest features of the Transformer Prime is the second battery in the laptop dock. Together, the keyboard and tablet get about 20 hours of battery life. This could play into the dedicated laptop form, with a light second battery fitted inside that can generate over 12 hours of battery life combined with the main battery. Long battery life is a major reason these tablet/keyboard combos work so well, so do the same with the dedicated laptop form.

I am not sure that an Apple iOS laptop or an Android laptop would be widely accepted. It depends on the factors I have mentioned, plus how large the market is for those who would benefit from having a keyboard on the tablet form. Microsoft is betting a lot on Windows 8 on the ARM platform, both tablets and laptops, so perhaps the market exists. We'll soon find out.

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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