Can the enterprise popularize tablet-laptop hybrids?

Moderated by Andrew Nusca | April 30, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Intel envisions a touch-enabled ultrabook that combines laptop and tablet features. Is there a market?

Christopher Dawson

Christopher Dawson




James Kendrick

James Kendrick

Best Argument: Yes

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Hybrids have a strong future

Chris Dawson: How many of us carry both a laptop and a tablet? Both are incredibly useful, but, especially for enterprise customers, tend to have quite different use cases. Tablets accompany us to meetings, lunches, conferences, and flights. They keep essential documents at our sides, let us store handwritten notes and capture video, and even function as interactive whiteboards.

Laptops, however, are indispensable for creating detailed powerpoints, writing white papers, composing lengthy memos, building websites, and writing code. No matter how powerful tablets become, enterprise users won’t be leaving full-blown PCs behind.

Enter the hybrid tablet, a growing segment of the PC market that gives users a detachable Android tablet when they want it and a complete ultraportable Windows PC when they need it. Largely ignored by consumers, it will be the enterprise that ensures hybrids have a strong future and continue to advance portable form factors for highly mobile users.

History will repeat

James Kendrick: The hybrid tablet, or convertible notebook, is nothing new. Those Tablet PCs with a rotating screen that exposed a touch tablet failed in the enterprise, and failed miserably. No doubt the Wintel bunch would like to believe that the new tablet-friendly Windows 8 will change history, but it wasn't just the OS behind the original failure.

The iPad is beginning to appear in the enterprise, in large part due to the thin, light form. Permanently attach a bulky keyboard to the tablet and you lose the draw of the light tablet. I have used many different tablets, and anything with a keyboard attached is simply too heavy and uncomfortable to use for any length of time.

Pure Windows 8-bearing slate forms no bigger/ heavier than the iPad have an outside shot in the enterprise. Add any weight to that like a keyboard and history is destined to repeat itself.


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  • I dunno

    "Can the enterprise popularize tablet-laptop hybrids?"

    I dunno, but I'd guess not. Sure, they can be popular within the organization, especially if the organization pushes them or benefits from them.

    But people [b]do[/b] tend to go their own ways outside of an organization.

    I [b]wish[/b] they were more popular. I had an early one with XP Tablet Edition, long before the iPad. I thought it was great, and that it would catch on.

    I was wrong. It never caught on.

    I don't know why people don't like them, but they don't. So I'm not keeping my hopes up.
    Reply Vote I'm for No
    • IMHO it was

      Price / performance that tended to be the down fall in prior attempts. Newer better concieved units that harness better performance / battery life coupled with lowered prices could and in my opion will change the landscape.
      Reply Vote I'm for Yes
      • It was price/performance, plain and simple.

        At the right price a touch-tablet/keyboard-mouse convertible is a winner but portability and price is a huge factor.
        M Wagner
        Reply Vote I'm for Yes
  • Depends on what they really are.

    To James's point we have seen them in the past and while good, were par too heavy, bulky and a very poor battery life to use them for more than very specific situations - BTDT

    To Chris's point I am really wondering at the choice of Win/Android as a hybrid - my guess would be no.

    IF they looked like this: a tablet that can dock into a keyboard (aka Transformer) or a dock that contains additional storage and display functionality (secondary CPU/GPU/HDD/SSD) running whatever OS the enterprise runs.

    This I could see. As a typical scenario:
    During breakfast use tablet to quick view email / messages / calender.
    At work plug into desktop dock and work on presentations, flows, programs, ERP, etc....
    Go to a meeting take the tablet
    Head out for an afternoon conference take the laptop (tablet + keyboard dock)
    Back to the office and plug into desktop dock for wrap up.
    Tablet heading for home.

    I coould see this becoming very popular. I see this being tried disjointedly using an iPad or Android tablet (do it myself).

    So yes, I can see this coming soon to an enterprise near you.
    Reply Vote I'm for Yes
  • I think they may just work

    Both sides of the debate elicit valid points. However looking at today's device using spectacles clouded with yesterday's experiences won't work - why? The reason windows tablets failed was because the software was not touch friendly and the hardware was not cheap either! Right now we live in a SoC world and they are cheap and consequently are the devices built from them this coupled with the fact that windows has also become more touch friendlier. This implies that windows hybrid devices of today don't have to be bulky nor expensive. This will give designers a chance to re-imagine computing devices and I believe we will see funky designs that range from very expensive models to very cheap ones all of which will run a full blown OS. Some have argued that an iPad with a keyboard is a hybrid wannabe - without a full blown OS.
    Reply Vote I'm for Yes
  • hybrids

    Until one of these companies bridges the gap and provides a product that is fully functional in both the enterprise and as a consumer product as the laptop has done for so many years than a hybrid is the best of both worlds. It will gain in popularity where it didnt before because now the tablet world has software written for it and consumersa are used to that platform. THey never went away from PC, they only added the tablet. Give us a machine that does both and can covert back n forth from one to the other and were going to jump to that just like businesses that purchased IP enabled phone systems and ran digital phones except where IP made sense. Everyone jumped on that bandwagon until VoIP improved. Now its solid, cheap and functional in the work place so the majority of companies are purchasing full IP systems now. I see hybrid ultrabooks the same way. Its a needed bridge until the tablet or something else is good enough to replace laptops. There is still a ton of room and demand for a better mousetrap. iPad hasnt solved it, its only taking us in a new direction. Its exciting but this new technology front has only just begun. Hybrid is the next logical evolution, but its not the answer either.
    Reply Vote I'm for Yes
  • I carry both now.

    And look forward to carrying a single device, albeit with a dock probably. I love the convenience of my tablet, but my laptop is still far more capable.

    My hope is to see a dual boot tablet running Android (or some some flavor of Linux) and Windows (that can log onto a domain) with performance and a keyboard dock similar or better than my Asus Transformer Prime.

    I agree with rkwalters that price/performance issues held back prior attempts with the exception of some specialized markets.
    Reply Vote I'm for Yes
  • The "Tablet PCs" of the XP-era were ahead of their time ...

    ... and that was a big negative. In those days, the "convertible" Tablet PC was heavy, had a short battery life, and it was more expensive than comparable notebook PCs.

    The very presence of "keyboard accessories" for iPads and some Android tablets tells us there is a market and a need for that "in-between" device which sometimes acts like a tablet and sometimes acts like a notebook.

    For most professionals, the tablet (usually an iPad) is an auxiliary device for when the Notebook is not required. The same will be true of the Windows RT (ARM) tablet. But what about the tablet as a true notebook replacement?

    At the right price-point, a Windows 8 "convertible" Tablet PC will be ideal at meeting both needs. But, if it is more expensive than a tradition professional-grade notebook, it will be a hard sell.
    M Wagner
    Reply Vote I'm for Yes
    • I have one of those Tablet PC of the XP era

      Except for the battery life I love it. A new and lighter version of the current tablet likeness would be in my hands quickly. The Asus Prime has me getting itchy.
      Reply Vote I'm for Yes
  • definitely

    i too bought an early tablet cum laptop (dell xp). loved it. still use it, running win7 (for my wife). i was a ceo of small company of 100 then. it was great and an asset. i'm playing around with win8 now. the only thing that would kill it would be the current rollout that MS is using for that OS--seems to me that whoever's running MS these days has mud for brains. they can't seem to figure out how to offer a dual interface for people like me.
    Reply Vote I'm for Yes