Time for a MacBook Air and iPad 2-in-1

Time for a MacBook Air and iPad 2-in-1

Summary: Imagine a MacBook Air with the latest version of OS X. Thin and light laptop with everything you expect from Apple. Until you detach the Retina Display and discover it’s a full iPad Air.

TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, iOS, iPad, Laptops
MacBook iPad hybrid

Hybrid computers, laptops with detachable screens becoming a tablet, started with Android systems and are now being made by major Windows PC makers. They offer dual functionality as laptops and tablets, although not everyone likes Windows on the tablet.

Now picture this scenario: you take your MacBook Air out of your gear bag, open the lid and you're working away as usual with the familiar OS X desktop. No delays, just get to work. You do all the work functions as usual with your thin and light MacBook Air.

After a while you want to do some simple things, perhaps check your social networks or read a book. You hit a button near the screen, pull the display off the keyboard and your iPad Air presents the familiar iOS home screen.

I am convinced that a device with a dual Apple personality could be a big hit with both consumers and the enterprise. A full laptop and iPad in one would be a great value to most Mac and iPad owners.

The hardware

On the surface it doesn't seem like a stretch for Apple to build one of these hybrid systems. Put some sort of hinge on the 11.6-inch MacBook Air portion, which shouldn't have to be changed much otherwise, and you have a familiar MacBook Air with benefits.

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The OS X laptop components would be in the keyboard unit as they are now with standard MacBooks. Apple wouldn’t have to change a thing, just leave the laptop guts where they are now.

The same applies to the iPad unit. The iPad Air wouldn't have to be changed much since it's already just a pound in weight and so thin. Leave a full iPad system inside just as it is now. The hardware should automatically switch between the two. With the iPad connected to the MacBook Air, OS X is run using the Intel processor. Detach the iPad from the keyboard and it runs iOS with the tablet processor.

What Apple could do with the merged unit to increase value is let the MacBook share the battery life of the iPad. It wouldn't do so unless the MacBook battery ran dry, but imagine a MacBook Air with 20 hours of operation away from an outlet. One with a touch screen at that.

Another way this hybrid could bring value to owners is to let the MacBook use the 4G LTE in the iPad unit. MacBooks have long needed integrated LTE, and this could happen with little effort on Apple's part.

The software

This is where such a hybrid from Apple would have a big advantage over Windows hybrids. When the display is in place on the MacBook the system would run standard OS X. It would be just like the MacBook Air today, and the iPad would only function as a screen.

There is no need to get fancy and have a dual OS function on the laptop. That would complicate things so just run OS X as a laptop.

The magic would happen when you detach the iPad from the laptop. This would force an instantaneous switch to iOS. The iPad would work just like iPads have always worked. This lets the tablet run a real mobile OS, rather than saddle it with a full desktop OS. That avoids the hurdle Microsoft is trying to jump over with Windows 8. It does too much on the tablet and many are not comfortable with that.

Some will no doubt say that Apple should let the user switch between the two OSes, but I say absolutely not. I don't see a need to make the two sides of the hybrid exchange data, either. The cloud is already there to do that. The key is keep both the Mac and iPad operation exactly as it is now. They are already familiar, and that's a big selling point

Benefits to Apple

Building the MacBook Air/ iPad Air 2-in-1 (MacBook Ultimate?) would do several things for Apple. First, it would address those clamoring for a MacBook Air with a Retina Display.

Second, this could play into the IBM alliance for the enterprise by offering a one-size-fits-all laptop and tablet for the corporate world.

Last but not least, those wanting a bigger iPad would have one with this 11.6-inch tablet to fit the MacBook Air. It's a win all around for the folks in Cupertino.

This hybrid from Apple would be big in both the consumer and enterprise spaces. Many MacBook owners also have an iPad and would see immediate value in having both with one unit. I predict Apple would sell over a million of these things in a very short period after launch.

Such a dual purpose device would appeal to the enterprise, too. It's easier to deploy one device than two, and cheaper to maintain. Throw in special software from IBM into the mix and you have what could be the best enterprise-class mobile device in the corporate world.

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Topics: Mobility, Apple, iOS, iPad, Laptops

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  • Would probably cost them a fortune to build that

    they'd have to charge near $3000.
    • I disagree about the price. At least for the base unit.

      But the build options would be a nightmare for manufacturing this device. Consider both the iPad and the MBA are devices that must be configured the the manner a consumer wishes at purchase time. (At least Apple would prefer that those two devices remain closed to owner hardware upgrades.)

      If such a hybrid would have an iPad 32 GB capability w/LTE and it's MBA component have an 8 GB of RAM and 250 GB of storage space capabilities then just adding together the cost of separate iPad and MBA devices matching those specs, one arrives at a cost of about $2,000.00 US dollars for this hypothetical hybrid computer.

      Personally, I would go with two seperate devices and combine the two manually with software. For example, one can now use the iPad as a secondary extended display for the MBA if a suitable WiFi signal is available.

      Or, one can also us the iPad combined with a pressure sensitive stylus as an input graphics tablet device for the MBA desktop graphics programs via a new iOS app from Avatron.

      Having a hybrid device is not a bad idea but perhaps Apple's strategy of avoiding hybrid devices - up till now - may not have substantially hurt their sales. (Although total sales for iPads have declined recently and that could be because of the hybrid devices currently available in the marketplace.)
      • It is interesting that this article gets proposed

        Just as rumours appear online stating that apple may be releasing a 13 inch ipad pro this year, and then the writer decides 'oh it might be time for this'.

        But in reality this all sounds a little over conplicated doesn't it? 2000 or 3000, it's too much for the 13" category. Currently 1000 for an air, 1300 for a pro. Whilst it is true that a 13 inch ipad pro will further clutter their 13 on range, I do think it will have to come in around the 1000 mark.

        128gb is a given I'd say looking at apples line up - all that remains to see is whether apple can truly take on the surface by producing an x86 Yosemite 'iPad' or whether they are going to try and take on the surface with ios.

        To my mind, ios8 as it currently stands, does not offer business grade solutions when spec'd up to 13" and pricing in at $1000-1200
    • I can hear Apple's reply...

      No, were not doing that, buy two devices.

      But if they did they would have to make two new iPad Airs in both 11.6 & 13.3 inch sizes ... if you want me to buy one it has to be 13.3.

      The aspect ratio has to change which probably plays havoc with millions of iOS apps.

      Of course in this format "portrait mode" would be AWFUL just like every other 16:10/16:9 screen (according to past opinions I've read) :-)

      B4 I get rollin, I'll just stop here...
    • Asus Transformer Trio

      What James is describing is what the Transformer Trio does except it's using Windows in the base and Android in the tabletscreen.
      Intel CPU in the vase with a hard drive, Arm in the tablet with flash storage.
      All you need is to VM OSX in Windows and hack iOS into the Arm tablet.
      My question to James is, do you want a 4:3 9" screen with a not-quite-fullsize keyboard, or a 16:9 11" screen tablet (iOS fragmentation) with a fullsize keyboard?
      P.S. I told you so.
    • Yeah...

      I don't get why he's so stuck on this garbage!

      Why would anyone who wants a real computer want a MacBook / iPad Air hybrid?

      Seriously, OS X on the MacBook Air is way more powerful than the heavily gimped iOS on the iPad Air and I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would want this when the Air already gives you more power and comparable battery life.

      You say this thing works for you Jim and that's great but, I assure you, you're in the minority and every time my wife tries to use a keyboard with her iPad she quickly abandons the device in favor of a straight iPad without the keyboard and I'll reach for a PC or MacBook before I would the iPad when a keyboard is needed.
  • Brilliant

    No. Not really.

    "Some will say it should run the two oses." Not me. In fact that sounds like a very tricky engineering goal. Even the switching you suggest sounds like a complex problem to solve.

    I imagine the business folks at Apple would ask three questions of one who suggested this, much in the manner of the bridge troll in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

    1) What is your name?
    2) What is your quest?
    3) Why would we try and sell a two-in-one for a higher price when we have great lesser-priced products targeted towards two generally non-overlapping markets?

    And the counter-question of "African or English markets?" will not rescue our intrepid pitch-maker.

    I'm a guy that dropped his iPad in a parking lot and went three weeks without while it got repaired. If I killed two devices' screens with one oops... yay, efficiency?

    It's way too early to invoke IBM/Enterprise to expanding the Apple product line. Plus, take a look at history. How well have fared the reputations of those who, from the world of journalism or stock analysis, suggested to Apple what will help it thrive in a sector? In your defense, we do not see the doom word.

    (And, with regards to IBM-Apple, one has to ask who needed this more? The three-lettered one. Apple sees some upside, so, why not? It's not betting the farm. But, to devote design and engineering resources to new see-enterprise-we-do-this-thing-like-Lenovo hardware bespeaks of a lack of confidence in the current product line. Our new Apple is not that Apple, yet. Until the alliance has met serious failures and those failures are directly tied to the specifics of the hardware, there's no point in creating new hardware for that demographic. But, mark my words, if the enterprise alliance fails it won't be because there was no convertible, it will about the software not creating sufficient value to override Windows-only CIO/CTOs or lack of buy-in from IBMs sales force.

    Apple's success to date in the enterprise has been through quality products that people want to take from home to work. Why would Apple change that formula because IBM wants to hitch on the Cupertino Express?)
    • You presented a good rebuttal argument, Dan.

      Although I suspect Apple could build a better hybrid device than any other similar product currently in the marketplace - especially if they used their ARM design and manufacturing skill to power such a device and ported OS X to the ARM platform - why would Apple market such a device?

      James gave his arguments for such a device. You gave your viewpoints for the opposite line of reasoning. IMO, a good debate.
      • Better to go x64

        It would make more sense for the iPad to go x64 than the Mac to go ARM.

        In fact, this is my prescription for MS. Ditch Windows Phone on ARM and go all-in on x64. Most Windows Phone apps will run just fine on x64, since they are interpreted code, and then you can have full-on Windows 9 in a phone.

        My dream is that I take my phone out of my pocket, drop it on a wireless charging pad, and my Bluetooth mouse and keyboard spring to life, my two touch-panel WiDi displays pop on, my WiGig Ethernet activates et voila, I'm at a desktop.

        With my TB of OneDrive storage holding all my data (after MS enables user-side encryption, of course), even if I lose my phone, it's no biggie.

        This should be fairly easy tech by Christmas 2015.
        x I'm tc
        • If you go x64 you need a fan and 2lb battery.

          Apple is creating power-sipping desktop class ARM processors that at totally optimized for iOS. Why the Hell give up that advantage to dump all the x64 baggage onto an already successful tablet?
          • The current atom

            Tablet and phone products

            Kind of argue against this logic.

            I've never really got where the big argument to force a mobile chip to be a desktop chip came from
          • I disagree

            With the advent of the Intel Core M processors, they could easily run full windows or full Mac OS without gimping the system. The current line of Intel Atom bay trail processors run windows extremely well. Imagine Intel M which is supposedly quite a bit more powerful.
    • I prefer

      the Microsoft model, with the tablet running the same OS as the notebook once docked. I have all of my data in the same apps using the same interface...

      Why would I want 2 devices, with 2 operating systems and have to duplicate and sync my data?
      • Exactly...!

        Exactly! Win81 functions perfectly fine as both a desktop and tablet OS. My Asus Note 8 can function as (1) a desktop PC when connected to the USB docking station feeding full-size screen and keyboard, (2) a mobile PC with BT keyboard or (3) a tablet. And I use it in modes (1) and (3) quite extensively (as I already have a laptop that fills role #2).
      • ok

        You're doing a video rendering on the Macbook and It's going to take hours. You plug the laptop into a 24" screen to do the work and get the rendering started. Then you whip off the screen and sit on the couch to troll on zdnet and watch cat videos and baby pics on facebook.
  • Yes, Apple is trailing Microsoft

    What you described is the Surface Pro 3 is it not?
    • Yep. Which is why Apple won't make one

      Because, as the Surface Pro 3 has shown, no one wants one.
      • Au contraire

        Premium devices like the surface are an exploding part of the PC market.
        x I'm tc
        • "exploding" is a strong choice of words

          given the state of the PC market. "Mild interest" would be a better description, with Apple's own Macbook Air as one of the leading entrants in the category.
          • I dunno

            I think we're talking 50% growth in units moved, year over year, while the rest of the PC industry continues to contract. Indeed, the growth in this one, previously niche, segment is so robust that Gartner is predicting the PC market will actually grow in 2015 despite contracting at every other level.

            I will admit that Gartner has no idea what the heck they're talking about, but still, this is the right market to be in.

            And furthermore, as Apple has shown, if you sell high-priced goods you can have low market share and still be a force to be reckoned with. Apple is a bit player in the greater scheme of things, but their bottom line is the envy of every other tech company. MS could make a ton of money just by selling a few tens of millions of Surfaces at average selling prices of $1,000.
            x I'm tc