Hybrid devices might bring customers back to the PC market

The PC market has been having its share of troubles lately with declining sales and less innovation than in years past. The iPad has almost destroyed the low-end Netbook segment, while the Macbook Air competing Ultrabooks have failed to take off in any significant way. While the market is in no way in trouble just yet, these are just some of the signs that people are moving away from the traditional PC towards light and portable devices such as iPads and smartphones. We've seen this trend accelerate over the last few years, with smartphones sales overtaking PCs last year.

Well, according to analysts this trend might change somewhat in the coming year, due to Microsoft's brand new Windows 8. The new operating system is radically different than its predecessors, bringing the new Start Screen, Windows Store and the "touch first" frame of mind. Yes it's very clear that Microsoft designed this system with tablets and hybrid devices in mind, leaving the keyboard+mouse users in second place. And ever since its inception, Microsoft has touted that Windows 8 will shine on brand new form factors that move away from the traditional clam shell laptops into hybrid territory: laptops that can change aspect and be used as a tablet, or the other way around.

OEMs seem to have received the message loud and clear and in five days time we will see a large number of unique and truly innovative devices come to market alongside Windows 8. Devices such as the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist and IdeaPad Yoga, Dell's XPS 12 with its rotating screen (pictured above), and of course we can't forget Microsoft's own Surface Pro tablet with its Touch Cover that can easily double as a laptop.

All of these devices have people's attention and analysts say they might be the key to bring customers back to the PC market. Talking to Wired, IHS iSuppli analyst Craig Stice said, "I do believe the convertibles have the ability to draw consumer attention, the question of course will boil down to price with these new convertibles and how competitive they will be able to be versus the tablet."

And of course he is right. Companies have been pricing most of these hybrid devices in the $1000 range which might seem extremely steep if you're coming from a tablet point of view, but might also seem risky if you're looking for a traditional laptop. Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagwa says, "Hybrid devices will not drive the overall growth [of the PC market] as long as the price point is higher than the $700 range. When the price drops below $700, it will start picking up.” However these devices are so new that there's little hope of such a price drop in the short term.

But there is some good news on this front too. Intel ran its own poll in which the majority of people were interested in traditional laptops but another 44% said they would want, or at least consider, a hybrid device. This shows there is some real interest and demand for these new form factors. As a result Intel has said it will work with OEMs to lower the prices of the next wave of devices in 2013. This will definitely be good news for consumers and will most likely blur the lines between what we now consider the traditional PC market and the mobile space.

“We think that a convertible done right is going to give people a good blend of capabilities,” Intel’s director of ultrabook marketing Karen Regis told Wired. “What we’ve seen is that it’s very appealing to a lot of consumers, we think there’s a play for business as well."

Of course it still remains to be seen if the new line of devices will actually be successful. But as Gartner's Kitagawa said, even if these devices will not succeed it's good to finally see some real innovation come to a market that has been largely stagnant the last couple of years.

Source: Wired | Acer image via Engadget

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23 Comments

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People are over PC's. Bringing out more complex PC's with strange hinges and folding mechanisms wont fool anyone.

derekaw said,
People are over PC's. Bringing out more complex PC's with strange hinges and folding mechanisms wont fool anyone.
People are not over PC's. I know this because aslong as there are gamers and DIY enthusiasts who love building computers that market will live on for a long time. It's great to have many different options of computing because it gives people more room of choices. What I love about Windows 8 is that it works great on a desktop and tablets. Also if I need to guide someone through a process of steps I don't have to learn anything new because Windows 8 is the same on PC and tablet.

Windows 8 will not fail definitely, it a great OS for the use with keyboard and mouse (Even if it was designed for touch), The OS is great for the occasional user which prefers simplicity over functionality, and for the power user, who still have the good old desktop for power functions with the addition of a clean metro interface, with additional apps.
THIS OS WILL SHINE!

Hope Win8 does not fail. I personally want more competition in the marketplace. It seems on the surface (no pun intended) the sweet spot is the MS notion of a more productive and flexible device in the hybrid form factor. Win 8 seems to be a differentiator because it has the potential to do a good bit more (external device support, office, more enterprise oriented, etc..) than iOS or Android in their current state. Not to say iOS and Andriod will not catch up and become more productivity oriented than consumption oriented. They are already making those moves. I just like the idea of only needing two devices. A phone for everyday convenience and a tablet/hybrid form factor for more in-depth intricate work. What I am hoping is to get to the point where I need just one device in a phone form-factor that has the power to be both productivity and consumption device and could drive a host of software and external devices (e.g. dual-monitors, tv, has the power to run productivity and development applications). That phone form factor could be "docked" into a tablet form factor to drive a tablet sized experience of into any larger form factor (desktop like xp, tv xp, game console xp, etc..). Hopefully that is where this is headed..

I think its the form factor that most people like. Until now the only affordable option was either the iPad or an Android tablet. I think that if people can take the Windows Ecosystem in the same form factor, businesses and some users will prefer it since it will eliminate the need for a desktop or a laptop along with their tablet choice. I'm a Sysadmin and while we deployed 50 ipads as a pilot for our organization, none of the users were also willing to give up their Laptops or desktops for it completely. I bought a Surface to try out RDP/AppV/Citrix presented apps and if it works, we'll ditch the ipads and go with Surface RT and Surface Pro devices for users who need more than office to run locally. I think MS made the right decision in not following the Apple and Google tablet strategies. Now we only need one solution in the enterprise which will cut down on support costs. Apps will come in time especially since MS sells over 300 Million copies of windows a year. Its too tempting to pass up on that revenue for developers. Just $1 from 1% will make you a millionaire. That's too tempting for any real company.

It would seem that a change is coming. As to that change will the new hybrids be what people are looking for, at this point no one is sure. The desktop computers in their latest form have been around for going on thirty years maybe it is time for a change. As to that change I really don't have a clue to what it might be has it seems the tech analyst don't either.

IronChef75 said,
But another analyst said this was all doomed to fail. They can't both be right! I'm so confused!

The hybrid is a compromise, which by definition, does nothing well. The "divide" between laptops/desktops and tablets will remain. If one is serious about what they do with a PC, one form factor or the other will be the best one.
Where MS made the big mistake was making a compromise OS for both form factors, instead of an excellent OS for each one and then provide a seamless way to communicate between the two.

TsarNikky said,

The hybrid is a compromise, which by definition, does nothing well. The "divide" between laptops/desktops and tablets will remain. If one is serious about what they do with a PC, one form factor or the other will be the best one.
Where MS made the big mistake was making a compromise OS for both form factors, instead of an excellent OS for each one and then provide a seamless way to communicate between the two.

Eh??
Where's the compromise?
Give me something specific and significant.

What I see is: on-the-go or casual use where you can turn your hybrid into a tablet with the start screen, productivity use where you use it with the keyboard, or you can use it productively with both the keyboard and touch. If you don't want to use your trackpad for a quick click, then you can simply swipe your finger on the screen to access a feature.

Where's the sacrifice? And please don't say something stupid like "the start menu is gone."

TsarNikky said,

The hybrid is a compromise, which by definition, does nothing well. The "divide" between laptops/desktops and tablets will remain. If one is serious about what they do with a PC, one form factor or the other will be the best one.
Where MS made the big mistake was making a compromise OS for both form factors, instead of an excellent OS for each one and then provide a seamless way to communicate between the two.

Windows 8 makes hybrids a non-compromise solution. you get both worlds and loose nothing in functionality. The only thing that may let down is size. For some people there might be no right size for both laptop productivity and tablet mobility.
If you're concerned about weight then AMD based hybrids might be much lighter and thinner than Intel ones.

TsarNikky said,
Where MS made the big mistake was making a compromise OS for both form factors, instead of an excellent OS for each one and then provide a seamless way to communicate between the two.

Yesterday I installed windows 8 release preview on my desktop PC and these are my findings:

1. Opening a program from start menu/screen:
Windows 7: 2 clicks.
Windows 8: 2 clicks.
http://i.imgur.com/ME6NK.jpg

It's all a matter of pinning the desktop programs you want.

2. Opening a program from "All Programs/Apps":
Windows 7: 3 or 4 clicks, mostly 4, because the majority of them are in folders.
Windows 8: 3-clicks and 1 right-click.

3. Doing some tasks are faster in 8.
http://i.imgur.com/K8yu8.jpg

4. Shutting down:
Windows 7: 2 or 3 clicks; depends on the power button setting. (3, in my case)
Windows 8: 3 clicks.

Honestly, I don't see much of a compromise here.

As for touch devices; how is it a compromise? It provides as good a experience as android or iOS and even surpasses them in certain areas.

More like "The best of both worlds", IMO.

TsarNikky said,

Where MS made the big mistake was making a compromise OS for both form factors, instead of an excellent OS for each one and then provide a seamless way to communicate between the two.

but what about when arm desktop computers are available in a few year? what would they be like.. your system would have a desktop windows RT, Tablet windows RT, Tablet windows 8, Desktop windows 8.. you have to realize that in the next few years they will have tablets that will be usable as desktops and vice versa.. And which OS would they choose when you plug in a windows Kinect?. desktop or tablet?

eddman said,
1. Opening a program from start menu/screen:
Windows 7: 2 clicks.
Windows 8: 2 clicks.

Actually since in Windows 7 you have limited amount of pinned apps, most of the time you will have to dig into "All Programs" or search which involves more actions than just 2 clicks. And that's what usually happen, because all the important apps are normally pinned to taskbar. in Windows 8's Start screen you can have more pinned apps and it's easy to find recently installed app just by swiping all the way to right.

IronChef75 said,
But another analyst said this was all doomed to fail. They can't both be right! I'm so confused!

All analysts are wrong, which mean Windows 8 will do ok, but not too good.