Windows 8 tablet hybrids: 'Compromises of convergence'?

Windows 8 tablet hybrids: 'Compromises of convergence'?

Summary: Microsoft and Intel will use Windows 8 to pitch "a tablet when you want it and a notebook when you need it." Will these hybrids fly?

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Windows 8 tablet/ultrabook hybrids will reportedly hit retail stores in November. Whether these devices sell will impact the consumer, SMB and corporate markets.

CNET's Brooke Crothers noted that Windows 8 tablets based on Intel chips (ARM too) will land in November. Certainly, chipmakers are upbeat about the Windows 8 prospects.

For instance, Intel's general manager of the PC client unit, Kirk Skaugen, spent a lot of time talking about ultrabooks, including convertible form factors, last week at the company’s investor meeting.

Skaugen's money slide is below.

Meanwhile, Nvidia executives were gaga for Windows 8 tablet/laptop hybrids too. Nvidia plans to roll with its Tegra 3 chip to power Windows 8 on ARM.

Related: Q&A: What BYOD means for ITCan the enterprise popularize notebook, tablet touch hybrids? | Great DebateCan the enterprise popularize tablet-laptop hybrids?

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said last week:

As Microsoft goes to market, people will understand why we're so enthusiastic about Windows on ARM. They're just very different things. I'll let Microsoft tell you about their plans, but I'm very enthusiastic about it. I think it makes a lot of sense for enterprise. Anybody who has a large part of their work around Windows would really benefit from Windows on ARM tablets.

The promise of these tablet/ultrabook hybrids is that you'll have touch and the functionality of a laptop. For someone like me these hybrids are appealing. But I may be a small market since most folks don't write as much and need a keyboard.

Why is the consumer retail launch so important to the hybrid market? In a word, it's all about consumerization. Should hybrids find their way under Christmas trees they have a realistic shot at succeeding in the enterprise.

However, should these hybrids flop corporations will stick to laptops, consumers won't bring hybrids to work and we'll still have a tablet vs. laptop world.

Microsoft and Intel will do everything they can to market these hybrids, tablets and ultrabooks. Intel is planning on spending more than it did to market the Centrino chip.

Apple CEO Tim Cook isn't convinced that combo tablet-laptop effort will fly. On Apple's recent earnings conference call, he said:

Anything can be forced to merge. But the problem is that the products are about tradeoffs. And you begin to make tradeoffs to the point where what you have left at the end of the day doesn't please anyone. And you can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user. And so our view is that the tablet market is huge, and we've said that since day one.

Now, having said that, I also believe that there is a very good market for the MacBook Air. And we continue to innovate in that product, but I do think that it appeals to someone that has a little bit different requirements. And you wouldn't want to put these things together because you'll wind up compromising in both and not pleasing either user. Some people will prefer to own both. And that's great, too. But I think to make the compromises of convergence, we're not going to that party.

Microsoft has been to that party repeatedly. Laptop/tablet hybrids have been attempted before. The wild card for Microsoft will be whether this invite to the hybrid party gets customers to show up.

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Processors, Software, Tablets, Windows

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54 comments
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  • So Why Would I Want

    A WinRT arm device? The only things it will run that I run in Desktop Mode is Office. That is unless software vendors are willing to rewrite programs for WinRT in desktop mode and if MSFT allows them to run on the desktop (see Firefox and Chrome). If One Note for mobile is any indication Office Mobile for the Metro Interface will be awful and limited. If I am to be limited in functionality and limited to a single open window (except in desktop mode where the only thing that runs will be Office), I'll just stick with existing solutions (Android/iOS).
    txscott
    • EXACTLY... someone gets it...

      No apps outside of office on desktop side (MS limited) and even if MS allowed it those apps would need to get rewritten for ARM... basically nothing in Metro side... people aren't realizing this is an entirely new platform with no eccosystem and apps built for it yet..

      They really. Should not have called it Windows.. when people who don't know better get these things home and none of their existing software will run on it and there arent even replacement metro apps.. these things are going to get returned like crazy... and people are going to tell their friends not to buy.. I see a huge PR disaster on MSs hands here.. calling it WindowsRT is a huge mistake... should have called it MS Metro or something else.. they are really confusing the market place with that naming... in the way users care about.. It's not Windows..
      theFunkDoctorSpoc
      • Microsoft sells hope

        The hope, that because it is called "Windows" someday, lots of people will support it. Doesn't matter that today, there is no software available yet.
        Wait for the bright future..

        But life is short.
        danbi
  • Windows 8 tablet hybrids: 'Compromises of convergence'?

    A hybrid might just be the thing people need. A laptop can be so much more productive than a tablet despite what certain ZDNet bloggers say. However I do see the limited need for tablets in certain situations and none of them include the home user. Combine the two and you have a winner. Tim Cook's statements don't mean jack since he's the competition and its a given he wouldn't like this convergence. His company would only sell one over priced device instead of two.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • yes, but...

      while Cook wants to sell you 2 apple devices instead of one, M$/Intel is selling you a useless device.
      The Linux Geek
      • Very Useful

        I have been using Win 8 on my HP Touchsmart laptop. It is great except it is heavy without much battery life. Having it on a ultrabook would solve that. I use it for work and play.
        hayneiii
      • "Too good to be true"

        Ever heard that? If such convertible computers were ever possible (and you forget to say they must cost no more than $500, right), then we would have had them already and nobody would ever discuss this "if".
        danbi
    • Hybrids are the mopeds of the mobile computer world

      They are the worst of both worlds. A niche market at best. They aren't good as laptops or tablets.

      With Windows 8, Microsoft is making sure you have a subpar desktop and touch experience. They say they want a consistent experience across platforms. Consistent it is -- consistently bad. Now, OEMS are going to bake that awful compromise into hardware as well! Yay!!!

      Why not just call it what it is? Being too cheap to pay for a great tablet and a great ultrabook, and instead buying a cheap piece of garbage hybrid that doesn't doing anything well.
      RationalGuy
    • People are tired of being guinea pigs

      Hybrids, of any kind and more expensive and fragile. Any sane person would buy a computer (desktop, tablet, rack mount server) to be used as a tool to perform tasks for it's owner, not to be toy, like an Tamagotchi, where the owner would spend resources (money, time) making sure their pet doesn't suddenly die.
      danbi
  • So, hybrids have failed for the last ten years

    but that was because we forced a desktop UI on the tablet side. This time it WILL work because we will force a touch UI on the desktop side! Yeah, that's the ticket!
    baggins_z
  • The importance of hybrids

    Hybrids are important to support three scenarios. The laptop mode is important when using legacy Windows apps, and when doing a lot of typing in Metro apps. Otherwise, most people will be in tablet mode with Metro. Therefore in the case for a lot of people who don't do heavy typing, if legacy Windows apps are important to them, hybrids will be important to them as well.

    As for Tim Cook's view, it is very short sighted. He dismisses the importance of the hybrid to a large segment of computer users, who would prefer single devices, to cover their spectra of business to consumer needs.

    Finally, the Tablet PCs past lack of success were primarily due to a deficient user experience and app ecosystem. These issues are addressed in Windows 8 / RT.
    P. Douglas
    • Legacy apps don't run on winRT desktop...

      ...only on x86 devices... the only apps that are allowed to run on winRT desktop are office apps and even they are not technically legacy apps since they had to be rewritten for ARM...

      people are not understanding.. winRT is really YET ANOTHER completely new mobile platform with only a hand full of apps that run on it..
      theFunkDoctorSpoc
      • Legacy apps

        You are also forgetting that the Hybrids will be both X86 and ARM, thus a users will have a choice when purchasing the machine. if you need to run legacy apps immediately then get an X86 based Hybrid. If you want to focus more on Office and web based application then WinRT should be good while applications begin to rapidly appear over the first few months.
        bama3
      • In reality

        While there will be relatively few Metro apps for Win8 at launch, that number will grow. Quickly. Don't underestimate the colossal number of Windows developers and ISV's that have/will port their code to run as Metro apps/experiences.
        bitcrazed
      • @ bitcrazed

        While there are indeed developers who will work with Microsoft, no matter what, they will have to learn new APIs and new ways to program.

        Microsoft has borrowed most of the sandboxing technology they have in WinRT and lots of API concepts from Apple's iOS. When developers who are used to the lax Windows APIs until now are forced to learn new concepts, only to be able to write tablet applications, they may well decide to program for the more prevalent tablet platform, the iPad, or at least for Android. During that process, those developers will learn a lot of new things and will be more prepared to write software for WinRT... although, they may not see any reason to do so anymore.
        danbi
      • ultrabooks

        We are not really talking about the limited ARM devices, but the full Win 8 on ultrabook hybrids.
        hayneiii
    • Not so much

      I had lots of apps, but Win 7 just was not touch friendly and the battery life was just too short.
      hayneiii
    • Waiting on proof

      [i]"He dismisses the importance of the hybrid to a large segment of computer users"[/i]

      I'm still waiting for someone (anyone) to show me solid proof that a "large" segment of computer users care about this hybrid approach (again and again). Microsoft is famous for doing focus group studies that 'supposedly' shows users wanting a certain device or feature. They've done it with the Kin phone last, polled a couple thousand teens/tweens on the type of phone they wanted. Where's the studies on these awesome new Tablet/Ultrabooks hybrids? If it's so important like you said, then surely OEMs and Microsoft must have done some type of user studies to share with the public.
      dave95.
      • Really?

        That's like asking for proof that tablets will be amazing before the iPad was announced. It didn't exist.
        Jeff Kibuule
      • Microsoft's fans are certain hybrids will be Amazing...

        And we see it in every posts. "He dismisses the importance of the hybrid to a large segment of computer users"

        I am just asking for proof of this large selection of consumers patiently waiting on hybrids. We've had slates, tablet pc, ultra pc (UMPC), UMPC hybrid, and convertible tablets and laptops for over a decade now. All did poorly in the consumer market. What will change this time around? Hybrids will still be significantly more expensive than iPads and other tablets, and one of the main excuses we keep hearing for their failings in the past was cost.
        dave95.