Yes, we are now less than three weeks away before Microsoft offers the world its biggest ever product launch event ever: Windows 8, Windows RT and the RT version of the Surface tablet. This is also Microsoft's biggest push into the touch screen product space as it tries to take some market share away from Apple's iPad and the many Android-based tablets, not to mention the Blackberry Playbook.
Microsoft's head man Steve Ballmer wants you to try out Surface
Will Microsoft be successful in launching a tablet-like product? It's very much an open question. The iPad is still the biggest such device in the industry since Apple launched the first version in the spring of 2010. It has managed to stay on top despite attempts by many other companies to make their own mark. Most have been disappointing and a few have been flat out disasters (HP TouchPad, anyone?).
However, there are a number of tablets, as well as notebook-tablet hybrids, for both Windows 8 and Windows RT that could finally break Apple's stranglehold. Apple has already decided that hybrids are not the way to go. In an interview earlier this year, the company's CEO Tim Cook gave his opinion on such projects, saying, "If you merge the two, the PC isn’t as good as it can be; nor is the tablet."
This is the man who doesn't like notebook-tablet hybrids. Will Microsoft prove him wrong?
However, we are not quite as narrow minded as Cook seems to be about this subject. We have already picked out a number of these upcoming products that will run on either Windows 8 or Windows RT that we are looking forward to trying out the most.
By the way, our definition of "hybrid" is a product that comes with both a physical keyboard and a touch screen out of the box that can also be used strictly as a touch screen tablet product. The keyboard may be detachable in some cases. Some Windows 8 tablets will be compatible with physical keyboards as an optional purchase but we have left them out of this article.
Microsoft Surface (Windows RT)
It goes without saying that the Surface tablet is the one that has the most buzz among the Windows 8/RT products that have been announced so far. While we will have to wait until sometime in early January for a Intel-based Windows 8 Surface tablet, the Windows RT version is due to launch on October 26th.
We love what we have heard so far. It will run on NVIDIA's Tegra 3 processor and will have a big 10.6 touch screen. It will also come with a Touch Screen detachable membrane keyboard, something which we always wanted the iPad to have. It will also come with a MicroSD port and a free copy of a (preview) version of Office Home and Student 2013 (upgradable to the full version when Office 2013 officially launches).
There's a lot we don't know about the Surface. What will its battery life be like? Will Microsoft even offer the option for a cellular wireless connection in addition to WiFi? The biggest question is, "How much will it cost?" We hope Microsoft will make it affordable to buy as well as productive to use.
Dell XPS Duo 12
By far the most unique design we have seen for a Windows 8 product comes from Dell. The XPS Duo 12 looks like a regular notebook at first, with a 12.5-inch touch display. However, Dell has designed the product so that the screen swivels around and then lays flat on the keyboard, turning it into a big 12.5 inch touch screen tablet.
While we love the design, we do have some concerns that the mechanical hinge for the revolving touch screen might not last very long under a lot of use, especially for business travelers. Hopefully, Dell will be able to make the XPS Duo 12 so that the swiveling screen will take a lot of punishment. While Dell has yet to reveal the price of this hybrid, we suspect it will be in the high notebook range.
Sony Vaio Duo 11
Sony's Vaio notebooks are among the sleekest made in the industry, and Sony's notebook-tablet hybrid looks like it will continue that tradition. We got a chance to check out a prototype of the 11 inch Vaio Duo 11 at the IFA trade show in August and we were impressed with its construction and its high quality 1920x1080 touch screen display.
Since this will be a hybrid product, it will also likely be on the high end in terms of price, but it looks like it will be worth a look if you are wanting to get such a device.
Besides the fact that this Asus product has one of the best names ever, the design of this hybrid has us fascinated. Unlike other similar products which flips or swivels its screen, the Asus Taichi which will actually have two screens. The second screen will be placed on the lid of the hybrid. Asus says that the two screens can be used separately as well as together for two people to use at the same time.
It's pretty slick looking and the idea of two screens for collaborative work or play really appeals to us. Let's hope it works as advertised.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
The IdeaPad Yoga 13 was actually one of the first such Windows 8 hybrid products we got to see up close. Lenovo showed off an early prototype at CES 2012. More recently, Lenovo posted up a page on its website devoted to the hybrid, but as usual, pricing was not announced.
It's supposed to have an Intel processor inside, although there are rumors that Lenovo might also have a version made for an ARM chip as well. We especially like the fact that the IdeaPad Yoga 13 will have four different positions, depending on where a user adjusts the screen.
So, will Microsoft's gamble pay off with the Surface? Will PC makers convince all those iPad users they can have their cake and eat it as well with a combination of a tablet and a regular notebook? We won't have much longer to find out if these hybrids prove Tim Cook wrong.