Contrary to Redmond’s expectations, the reception received by Microsoft RT during its launch, one of the first hybrids available in the market, was as warm as a Siberian winter. The reviews given afterwards, though, were very hot, burning even. With rage. Reviewers took an instant dislike to Microsoft’s lovechild, castigating it to no end. The buggy user interface, the slow processor and the premium price did not help and only contributed to the string of negative feedback.
Microsoft’s first foray into the tablet market ended in a fiasco.
The next slew of hybrids that were released by Microsoft and other OEMs showed great promise, though, to chart a new electronic device category. The Microsoft Surface Pro, successor to the hapless Surface RT generated much positive feedback and so did the others which followed its release.
There is one question, though, that has been nagging everyone since the release of these hybrids, the Microsoft Surface Pro in particular.
What are they? Are they tablets or laptops? They are neither.
Anyway, despite their popularity and proliferation nowadays, hybrids are still niche devices, only fit for a particular group of people. There are still several limitations in both tablet and laptop mode that hinder the mass-acceptance of these hybrids.
It’s the Laptop’s Fault
Mobility and portability were two of the most compelling reasons back then, before the rise of tablets, to buy a laptop instead of a desktop. However, as times changed, these two reasons became a laptop’s Waterloo. In these two fields, the emerging tablet slaughtered the laptop. Laptops were simply too bulky and heavy compared to the more lightweight and portable tablets.
Consider two contenders for thinnest laptop and thinnest tablet. The Sony Xperia Tablet Z measures just 0.26 inches thick while the ultrabook candidate, the HP Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000 measures 0.78 inches. The difference might not be substantial, but then ultrabooks are wider and generally heavier compared to tablets, making the difference quite noticeable.
Another difference is of course, the price. Laptops are simply waaay more expensive than tablets, especially the sleeker and newer laptops. There is simply no competition here.
Price is one of the things that a hybrid inherited from its father, the laptop. The price of hybrids stands between the higher tier laptops and the most powerful tablets. “Less portable” (bulky) and touchscreen-less laptops, though, generally cost less than hybrids.
Furthermore, the hardware part is also a carry-over from laptops. To run Windows 8, hybrids need a powerful processor, ample RAM and decent graphics. While those components are primarily responsible for the high price, they also take their toll on a hybrid’s battery life.
In fairness to its laptop lineage, hybrids are generally more productive than tablets due to the Windows 8 operating system. Apps that actually support the touchscreen might be few, but then legacy applications that work on Windows 7 are guaranteed to work on Windows 8.
It’s the Tablet’s Fault
The laptop-tablet hybrid is a great piece of technology except for one thing, the tablet part.
You have probably seen the complaint a lot on the internet, posted by disgruntled owners who noted that hybrids are too heavy, too bulky and have too many compromises to be proper tablets. Indeed, holding a “tablet” with a 13-inches screen is kinda awkward and not really practical while moving around.
Critics on the internet are even arguing that a hybrid should be a tablet first before a laptop because portability is its biggest selling point against a laptop. If they are not as portable as they are advertised to be, if the tablet part is just a gimmick, then what is the purpose of a hybrid?
Furthermore, another inheritance from a tablet is the underpowered internals. True, hybrids are powerful compared to tablets, but then, compared to laptops and even ultrabooks, they just don’t cut it. The underpowered hardware is necessary for battery conservation and the lightweight form factor. And stuffing in a more powerful processor, more RAM, and more capable graphics will just drive the price higher.
Whose Fault Is It Anyway?
Too little to be a laptop, too big to be a tablet. And therein lies the problem.
Hybrids are supposed to be a class of their own, a whole new race of electrical devices that will make life, already easy, easier. Hybrids are not out to replace either laptops or tablets, but rather, obliterate them. Yeah, just like that. The hybrids are not content to just replace the two old electronic devices, but rather, destroy them completely and dominate the market before the rise of another contestant. Sounds like a classic Star Wars novel with a Sith Lord background.
“Destroy the Sith….” Really?
Anyway, I, for one, believe that these hybrids are the future. They may be underpowered and awkward devices to use now, however, give it a few years or even months to consolidate. I’m pretty sure that they will dominate the market just like the tablets are doing now.
Keep in mind, though: A Jack of all trades is master of none.