Could hybrids be the death of tablets?

Could hybrids be the death of tablets?

Summary: Are hybrid systems destined to kill off the tablet, or are they just another PC form factor waiting to fail?

TOPICS: Mobility, iPad, Tablets

Once upon a time, the desktop PC reigned. Then came the notebook. Then, tablets came along and wiped the floor with both the desktop and the notebook, and sent the entire PC industry into a freefalling tailspin. But could the reign of the tablet be a short-lived one? Could hybrid systems be waiting in the wings to give tablets a taste of their own medicine?

(Image: AMD)

According to an AMD executive, tablets such as Apple's iPad and Google's Nexus could be sidelined by hybrid systems in "two to three years".

Speaking to T3, AMD's UK retail business development manager Andrew Muscat predicts a changing of the tides.

"You're going to see a shift, I think, while tablets are good, you're still restricted when it comes to content creation; there's always going to be a need for notebooks," said Muscat.

"I think it's moving a lot more towards taking tablet technology and effectively turning it into notebook technology."

At the core of this shift, predicts Muscat, is a shift from using local processing power that comes in the form of the CPU or GPU to cloud computing.

"If you look at it, it's pretty much all evolving around the cloud; the cloud is driving this massively. I think that's where mobile (and when I say mobile, I mean notebook, tablet) is going."

While both AMD and Intel seem to have faith that hybrids will, to some measure, reinvigorate the PC industry, this feeling is not shared by the wider industry. PC OEMs, some already feeling burned by poor netbook and tablet sales, are increasingly reluctant to pin their hopes — not to mention research and development dollars — on a new PC form factor.

Another important factor to bear in mind is that hybrids are nothing new. Asus, for example, has had a hybrid on the market in the form of the Android-powered Transformer for quite some time now, and that has hardly rocked the world. Just adding Windows 8 into the mix — an operating system that has had, at best, a mixed reception — is hardly likely to improve things.

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Tablets

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  • Hybrids Android

    bet on hybrids with android working very well!$200/
    Henrique Dourado
    • Has to do with Windows tablet/hybrid hardware that isn't selling.

      The reason for Android hybrids all of as sudden is Intel and Windows OEMs are looking to offload all that Windows 8 hybrid and tablet hardware they can't sell, and Google agreeing to help give them a way out. Take the Windows junk off it Windows 8 devices and install Android, and you have a decent tablet/hybrid that people can use and will buy. I am not sure if they are going to make a serious inroad against tablets or laptops though - the functionality of the concept isn't as good for its use case as either tablets or laptops.
      • Fair point

        There are some very impressive hybrids coming from Android and Windows OEMS; some truly innovative and clever products. However, as you rightly note, it seems that these are not selling, which of course makes one wonder if this is really the direction that most people want?
  • hybrids=half baked worst of both world

    they most probably wont kill nothing ;)
    • As "bad" as your post sounds .....

      I am afraid I have to agree with you.
      • Hybrids even after 20 years no traction

        The major PC manufacturers (whom ever they may be) have always developer these "hybrid" devices. There has always been take of them replacing PCs, Laptop, and now tablets. If it were going to happen it would have a long time ago. Tablets by design do tablet things very well. Hybrid do two or more things not very well. Tablets will have accessories, but the idea of forcing all customer to pay for extra they don't need won't work.
        • What does a tablet do well that a hybrid doesn't?

          Just for example, take the hybrid devices that have detactable screens for tablet use. What exactly is it that they don't do that single function tablets do?

          Using your logic; tablets existed for years prior to iPads, but never found mass market success. Yet today tablet devices are heading to be the most popular computing devices in the market. Hardware and software advances enabled that to happen. The same is happening for hardware and software to power hybrid devices.

          It isn't like iOS or Android do web browsing, email, movies or angry birds in such a unique way that other devices or operating systems can't just as easily do those things. Heck, they don't even do some of those things as well as PCs/Macs. Any operating system on any current hardware can easily replace that.

          You are right that tablets have accessories, but I suspect you are thinking it is cases with built in keyboards or kickstands. I would be the most popular accessory is still a second computer. Not because the second computer does something so much better than the tablet, but because the tablet just doesn't do that thing well if at all.
          • Re: the most popular accessory is still a second computer

            You guessed it right!

            And it comes directly to prove your "proofs" are invalid.

            What are hybrids? A tablet, that sells with additional non-tablet hardware which turns it into something else (say, a notebook). Now, why would you want to buy that more expensive device, when for about the same money you could buy *two* devices that do both parts separately -- a tablet and a notebook. Here, you have one primary and one companion device.

            It seems those companies still do not understand what Apple did. They took an half-baked idea, removed all unnecesary parts and created a new device, which as it turns out, everyone wants. Why? Because it is simpler, streamlined, does what it promise (and then some) and is cheaper. Or, if it is the same price, it has more stuffed in.

            How many tablet users do you think buy keyboard covers? Truth is, very, very few. Why you think they will accept to be forced to purchase the tablet *and* the keyboard in a form of hybrid? Both will be compromises, becaus etheir designers know that "you can always snap it together", so they will make the lazy choices to not have the best possible experience when not the full package is used. It is always like this.
          • Because no one who uses tablets needs their laptop anymore, right?

            $699 for iPad4
            $400? for entry level notebook.
            $1,099 total


            $525 for my HP Envy X2 ($599 not on sale)

            I saved nearly $600 dollars while getting all the functionality of an iPad and a notebook and have all the functionality of a tablet and a notebook running a full powered operating system.

            Then again you think the ipad is cheaper than other devices, so I guess that tells all that needs to be said about your perspective on reality.
          • the perfect example of an fanboy

            Now, if you could point out where I mentioned the iPad, you could have a point. But I did not. So, you don't.

            This tells it all about you, one needs to know. And your perception of others' arguments.

            Sometimes, you know this stupid system that does not let you edit posts has benefits.

            Try better next time.
          • You said Apple in reference to you theory on tablets.

            You can see the entire paragraph were you talk about apple creating perfection and how no other company gets that yet and how it is cheaper? Now what is the name of the tablet Apple makes? The one you were raving about.... hmm...

            And now you want to call me a fanboy. You simply never cease to deliver irony and failure on an entertaining level. Thank you for the laugh.
  • Yes and no

    Yes and no.

    7/8" tablets will always have their place, due to their extreme portability. It's possible that Phablets like the Galaxy Tab II could kill 7/8" tablets, but I still think there's a popular 7" sweet spot that's too big for a phone and too small for a hybrid.

    As for hybrids killing dedicated tablets: consider that in one important sense there's no such thing as a dedicated Android tablet. Attach a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and your Android tablet is basically no different from a hybrid like the Transformer series, except without the added battery life.

    I do think that, because of their business/productivity focus, there's really not much room to begin with for a dedicated Windows 8 tablet. Windows 8 will continue to be a mostly hybrid OS. Sure, some Windows 8 systems will mostly be used without a keyboard (data collection in the field) but but mostly people will use them with a keyboard when they are doing "real work" and without the keyboard when they're surfing the web lying on the couch (or the hotel bed).

    iOS is the big mystery. Will Apple ever add native mouse capabilities? I don't know. I guess that depends on whether Apple will ever get over the fear that the iPad will cannibalize Macbook sales too deeply.
  • The problem with the Transformer was Android

    I had and loved my transformer, but it wasn't a complete replacement due to the operating system and apps. Putting a keyboard on an Android or iOS tablet just makes it a better typing experience. It doesn't change or improve the functionality of the device itself. It was still a companion device, even though it had nearly the same form factor of an ultrabook.

    I now have an HP Envy X2 and it completely replaced my Android tablets. Essentially there is nothing that the Transformer could do that the EnvyX2 could not, but the X2 could do a lot of things the Transformer could not.

    Adding windows8 to the form factor changed everything. I'm sure AKH doesn't understand why, but if it were Ubuntu or OSx I'm sure he would be calling it revolutionary.

    Having a full powered operating system on the same form factor as current tablets has been completely liberating. That really is the only way to describe it.
    • Loving the x2


      I second the x2 endorsement. I'm loving mine so far - great battery life, tremendous flexibility, and I'm starting to appreciate Microsoft's vision for Windows 8.

      BTW, I'm writing this reply from my x2. In fact, I was browsing the site with just the tablet portion, saw your comment, and quickly grabbed the keyboard dock to bang out a reply. It's this sort of "quick change" versatility - from consumption to creation mode - that makes these devices so compelling.

      The only downside is the middling performance, something that will be rectified later this year Bay Trail and (to a lesser degree) Haswell.

      • curious

        Why did you need the keyboard, if the tablet portion of the Envy x2 is to good?

        I never ever attach a keyboard when reading/responding in ZDNET to my iPad and I do plenty of this.

        Trust me, neither Bay Trail, nor Haswell will improve the "middling performance" of your Envy x2. It will get even more sluggish as Microsoft updates their OS over time.

        By the time Bay Trail and Haswell are on the market, it may turn out the Envy x2 (or it's next version) isn't the better offer out there.

        It is always you either need to have what you love, or you need to love what you have.
        • Love your crystal ball of Fear Uncertainty Doubt!

          Thank you for the warning of impending doom and how terrible things actually are.

          Not that I doubt your speculation of the performance of a device I actually own and use, but yeah I completely disagree with you.

          To answer your one question about the usefulness of the keyboard.

          For zero dollars an additional 1.5 pounds my tablet is transformed into a notebook with additional ports for peripheral support, double the battery life and additional SD storage options.

          You are more comfortable putting your tablet down and using a completely different device to achieve the same thing at far more cost, weight, etc.

          To each their own I guess.
  • Hybrids will simply supplement the category

    Really, any tablet with Bluetooth is potentially a hybrid.

    From the tightly integrated snap on keyboards in Surface, to the less integrated Bluetooth keyboards for iPad that nonetheless go to a lot of trouble to make the experience sleek, every device is already a kind of hybrid, if it has been paired.

    Hybrids will take the part of the spectrum where tablet style use is the less important use case. If you need a laptop, but occasionally have to do floor inventory with a wand or by onboard camera, the true hybrids are great for that.

    I don't see anything killing anything. There will simply be supplemental products that better fit certain users.
    • also

      My take on this is that with improvements in technology and the general ability of the population to spend more (or those things becoming cheaper), we see the dissasembly of the personal computer. Internet and wireless technologies help too.

      Today, you can have either a monolitic computer, or a computer comprised of several, loosely coupled parts. The display and human interface (keyboards, mouse, touchpads, joysticks) used all to be wired, now they are wireless. Storage used to be "inside" the computer, today it's common to have it outside, and often far away or wireless. Wireless displays are more and more common as is remove CPUs (for example to aid rendering of complex drawings).

      Nothing new under the sun. It's all marketing buzzwords.
  • Sigh

    "Are hybrid systems destined to kill off the tablet, or are they just another PC form factor waiting to fail?"

    Must everything either be killing something else off or failing? Can't have choice? One must always "win?"

    "Once upon a time, the desktop PC reigned. Then came the notebook. Then, tablets came along and wiped the floor with both the desktop and the notebook, and sent the entire PC industry into a freefalling tailspin."

    An imaginary story that never happened. Last I checked, TigerDirect and New Egg are still in business, and my local WalMart and Best Buy are actually still selling towers if you really want one.

    In fact, if you were to look at installed base rather than sales, you'd see that desktops and laptops are still in over 90% of homes.

    This tired old canard is completely refuted. I don't see why it has to keep coming up.

    "At the core of this shift, predicts Muscat, is a shift from using local processing power that comes in the form of the CPU or GPU to cloud computing."

    Eh, not completely agreeing.

    For one thing, even smart phones and tablets have local processing power - they have CPUs and GPUs. And for another thing, OnLive (a completely cloud based gaming service) is actually struggling, not succeeding. ZDNet was super quick to label it as "the future of gaming," but it looks like its future is questionable.

    Also, "cloud" services like Gmail aren't just in the cloud - you can get an official app and a million unofficial apps that give you offline access to Gmail.

    Do people *really* want to be relying on 24/7 internet access, hoping it will never fail, or that they'll always be able to afford it? Do people really want to trust their data to a third party?

    Sometimes the answer is "no." And I don't want that to ever stop being a valid answer.
  • They have to get used to mutliple types of devices, not again one rules all

    We are in a post-pc, post-monopoly of a single device like the PC. Our future will be one of multiple type of computing devices. Tablet will remain, hybrids will be another type, laptop another type and even desktop being another type.

    It's hard for monopolistic Microsoft or Intel or AMD to get their heads around this new concept. They are too nostalgic about the good old days.