Could hybrids be the death of tablets?

Are hybrid systems destined to kill off the tablet, or are they just another PC form factor waiting to fail?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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