Hybrids could save both PC and tablet
When tablets were launched, people said they would kill the PC. Of course, that didn’t happen, and today it looks like the tables have kind of turned. The demand for desktop computers continues to decline as more and more functions are transferred to our smartphones. But tablets also seem to have reached a saturation point where annual refreshes aren’t enough of an incentive to ditch the old one, as IDC’s Q3 report shows.
Now, tablet makers and PC makers are turning to each other, like a Hail Mary. The convertible or 2-in-1 is something PC makers have bet on, and now, with devices like the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro, tablets are heading in the same direction.
(Also see: Beyond Ultrabooks – In Search of the Next Great Form Factor in Computing)
As our phones improve, we no longer need other devices for most tasks. There are still some things that are best done on a laptop, like high-end gaming or graphic design work, and there are some areas like casual gaming, reading, or watching movies where the great tablets. The idea behind hybrid PCs was to be the best of both worlds.
It was all the rage a few years ago when Intel introduced this new segment to bridge the gap between regular laptops and high-end Ultrabooks. They never really caught on due to high prices, but the segment is expected to account for nearly 26% of total mobile PCs by 2019.
Tablets are tackling the same problem on the other side with a new wave of hybrid tablets. The iPad Pro review and Microsoft’s latest Surface Pro 4 show how tablets can become more useful than before.
It’s not a new concept per se, as you can always add a keyboard to your tablets. But that’s not the only change. The Surface Pro, for example, comes with a “tablet mode” button to make the interface more user-friendly, and Windows 10 lets you easily run tablet apps and legacy programs side-by-side. The iPad Pro also includes iOS tweaks to make it more suitable for multitasking and makes it much more useful. These changes make tablets effective for more than just media consumption.
Windows tablets are now much better as tablets than before, while still being useful as a PC. Apple’s offering still offers the best tablet experience, but it’s also quite capable with a keyboard.
At CES 2016, we saw major PC vendors refresh their hybrid devices while others introduced new hybrid tablets to tackle Microsoft’s Surface. Dell has unveiled the Latitude 12 7000 series which sports USB Type-C and is powered by Intel’s Core M SoC. Toshiba has announced the DynaPad tablet which can function as a Windows 10 laptop with a keyboard dock. Samsung also launched the Galaxy TabPro S, which is the first Galaxy device to run Windows 10.
These devices come close to having the best of both worlds, but high prices will still be an issue. For example, in India, the Surface Pro 4 is on sale at a starting price of Rs. 89,990, which is not exactly affordable for most. And remember this is the base model, with limited storage and RAM.
Another thing that will annoy a lot of people is the lack of SD card readers, LAN ports, and other hardware you take for granted. Workarounds exist, but most require you to spend even more money on optional accessories.
Hybrid tablets are still in a very nascent stage and still have a long way to go. But this may be just the shift the tablet and PC industry needs to make it a “must-have” gadget again, as smartphones continue to defy size and shape.
The age-old “PC vs. tablet” war will soon be moot, as the two worlds seem to merge into a singular entity. Yesterday it was a laptop trying to be a tablet and today it’s the other way around. Perhaps a merger of these two computing spaces is exactly what is needed to revive the tablet and PC industries in one fell swoop.
Check out the latest from the Consumer Electronics Show on Gadgets 360, in our CES 2023 hub.