By combining tablet and PC functions into one operating system, Microsoft put some pressure on OEMs to innovate in system design. Windows 8, as the plan still goes, redefines tablets as PCs and set the OEMs on a quest for the perfect combination of both. Examples include the Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro and the Lenovo Yoga.
Perhaps it was too much to expect of PC OEMs to get a transition like Windows 8 right the first time. Now we're beginning to see the second generation emerge in time for the holiday season.
Below, behold the new Yoga 2 Pro. Like the original Yoga, it looks and works like a conventional notebook, but flip the display all 360 degrees around and it becomes a tablet. In this mode the keyboard shuts off and it's meant to be used purely for the touch screen.
Lenovo likes to point out the other positions into which the Yoga bends, appropriate to a variety of circumstances. The "tent mode" above might work well for watching a video.
The downside to the Yoga approach is that, as a tablet, it's kind of big and heavy. This may not be a problem, or it may be one you can work with, given the ease with which you can transform it back into a real notebook.
And Lenovo makes real notebooks, some of the best there are. I'm typing this on a ThinkPad X201, about the 7th or 8th Thinkpad I've had and probably the best computer I've ever owned. I've been excited about what the company can come up with for Windows 8, and nobody has experimented more freely.
They've avoided the Surface-style clip-on keyboard, but they have these other designs in addition to the Yoga:
The top 2 are newly-announced; the bottom 2 were announced with the original Windows 8 release. Lenovo calls the Flex 20 an AIO (all-in-one) system, but it looks more like a big tablet with accessories to me. The Flex 14 flips 300 degrees for a stand mode (there's also a Flex 15 with a 15.6 inch display).
When I first saw the Lynx I fell in love. Surely this was the optimal design for the hybrid/dual mode system. I got to test it briefly and it broke my heart; both test units I received had problems and the keyboard felt cheap, and certainly not up to Lenovo standards. They haven't done a 2.0 of the Lynx, but I hope they do fix it.
The Twist is a notebook with a screen that can swivel 360 degrees and flip 180 degrees.
It's worth noting that nearly all of these computers, including a series of more conventional notebooks released Tuesday by Lenovo, have touch screens, at least as an option. This is a general trend, I believe with substantial Microsoft effort behind it.
Of all of the designs I've seen so far, the Yoga and Surface seem like the best ones. I'm not claiming that those are the best, or even good implementations of the design. The main point is that both can be used as tablets or notebooks and are fully portable as both.
Lenovo has gotten the 13 inch Yoga a bit lighter (1.5kg for the first Yoga, 1.39kg for the new one), although it's actually a millimeter or two thicker.
I'm still a believer in the dual-mode/hybrid tablet/notebook computer. When I use a computer I generally need to type, so a tablet doesn't do the job, and having to carry both around causes more problems than it solves for me.