I remember Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, once describing a tablet-with-laptop hybrid as an abomination. He said that the combo device would do a bad job at both cooling and heating up food. That statement was back in 2012, but today things have changed, the future tablet is interestingly a laptop.
We are already seeing a number of laptop-tablet hybrids hitting the market and gaining in popularity. The recent upsurge in demand is owing to the fact that they are usable as a touchscreen device but with the capabilities of a regular desktop computer or laptop. Experts that once tossed out the idea are now seeing it become one of the fastest-growing segments in the computer industry. Among the most popular are the Microsoft Surface devices like the Pro 3 and the cheaper Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. Their growth is partly thanks to their compact design, and foldable keyboard and partly because of the powerful Intel Core M processors. These allow very slim devices,with speeds similar to midrange laptops but without the added heat and weight.
Tumbling Tablet Sales
Tablet sales have stagnated in the last three years, mainly because there is no point in upgrading from an iPad Air to an Air 2. In fact, people with the original iPad 4 don’t seem to be interested in upgrading to the Air. This is because most tablets are used for the same things, i.e. watching movies, listening to music, reading emails, and browsing the web or playing a casual game of Quizup. But a hybrid offers both entertainment and work in one neat package.
Today you can buy a $400 Yoga or Surface tablet with more space, more power and arguably a better screen than the $700 Apple tablets, which might explain a recent report by Strategy Analytics, showing that Apple’s iPad sales have fallen 18% percent in just over a year, the six quarterly decline in a row.
So Why Did The Dell Streak Fail?
The Dell Streak failed in 2010 because it was ahead of its time; there weren’t many apps supporting it and people couldn’t really see the point of a pocket-busting phablet. Now, with companies like Microsoft, Samsung and Apple investing heavily in building software for phablets, it’s possible to do everything from typing an email to editing your spreadsheet, to paying for your purchases (with Apple Pay, Swipe, etc.). So, people don’t really need a 7.9 inchiPad Mini when they can do everything and more on their phone.
I think most people wrote off hybrids when the Dell Streakwas withdrawn from the market just 13 months after its launch. Back then it had a 5-inch screen, which was thought to be ridiculously large. Fast forward to 5 years later and the Galaxy Note has a much bigger display, with a push towards even larger and more vibrant screens.
Do Businesses Recognize This Trend?
Apple is rumored to be working on introducing a larger version of the iPad with a keyboard. The two-in-one hybrid by Apple will sport a 13-inch screen, according to some reports, and the iOS 9 certainly has elements, such as the multi-window feature, which hint of a larger screen and keyboard. The new version is rumoured to be unveiled next month.
Even if Apple recognizes this trend, I still think it’s too little too late. A lot will depend on the pricing. I already know people who have an iPad and are using it with a third-party keyboard, which essentially turns it into a productivity device. Maybe Apple can get in on the action by introducing a keyboard of its own and perhaps varying screen sizes. But since Steve Jobs’ day, it seems that Apple’s innovation has lagged behind competitors.
When Will Hybrids Really Dominate?
Tablets are not going to be completely phased out anytime soon, but the market will turn in favor of hybrids by a factor of two to one sometime in late 2017. By 2018 we will probably no longer see stand-alone tablets, but rather devices with keyboards and docking stations with wireless chargers. If Apple does not keep up, we will see competitors taking over the market. Althoughthey are currently the world’s biggest sellers of tablets, if they want to maintain their position this is a trend thatthey ignore at their peril.