Watching how many tablet and PC vendors have approached new product releases, I sometimes get the feeling that they have no idea what the market really wants.
Because of this, they try many things and hope that some of it sticks. This is precisely the feeling I get when I look at the new Samsung 13.3 ATIV Q.
I'm not convinced there is a large market demand for tablets that dual boot Android and Windows 8, but Samsung, which has had its share of hit products, seems to think there is.
Asus actually took this concept to the ultimate extreme when they announced their Transformer Book Trio which can be a desktop, notebook, and tablet. The Transformer Book Trio accomplishes this through docks and accessories and is positioned as a three-in-one PC.
Unless I am missing something, I fail to see how the mass market (or any significant size market) will yield the most value out of these products when they are simply trying to do too much and don't do any one thing really well. The hybrids and detachable PC and tablets I've seen to date are neither the best tablet nor the best notebook on the market.
At this point, it's not clear to me whether the detachable tablet 2-in-1 devices have potential or are too much of a compromise to truly fill a market opportunity.
Focus on Computing Modes
To bring true value to a user base who wants to use device that has dual benfits of being a tablet and a notebook, OEMS need to focus on the different modes each form factor enables.
When a consumer is in notebook computing mode they need an experience that suffices as a notebook. Part of this is how the software functions when the input mechanism is mouse and keyboard.
The same is true when in tablet mode, which is very different from notebook mode. Tablet mode should lend itself more toward a use case where the device is being held in one-handed and touch operated in the other. This has impact on how the hardware is designed as well as how the software functions while in tablet mode.
Most designs I have used to date are slightly better at one function or the other. This is the challenge the industry needs to meet head on if these types of hybrid device are to catch on in the market place and add value rather than cause frustration.
A difference in philosophy, the enterprise is watching
The most interesting thing about this is the difference of philosophy Microsoft and Apple are taking with this. This is a big deal, particularly in enterprise environments where decisions are being made as to which philosophy to support.
Without question, the best tablet and the best notebook experiences are going to be ones where all the hardware design, software, etc., is built specifically to be a tablet or a notebook.
This is the line in the sand Apple has taken and they re-upped their commitment to this strategy at their WWDC developer conference two weeks ago. Apple is keeping touch computing and mouse and keyboard computing separate. When it comes to their tablet strategy it is hard to argue with the results.
This is a key point for those looking to bring tablets into the work place. If enabling your employees with the absolute best of breed tablet experience is an objective, I fear it won't be met by hybrids.
Lenovo gets it right - twice
The way I feel OEMs embracing Microsoft's philosophy need to approach this dilemma is to focus on building devices with the 80/20 rule in mind. Let's use Lenovo as an example.
In the case of the Lenovo Yoga, a device selling extremely well, the hardware design is built with a notebook use case in mind 80% of the time.
Most of the time the device is used as a notebook and is designed accordingly. However, there are times when the user may want to use the device as a tablet, but only minimally as a part of the overall usage.
The tablet mode is simply there when they need it, but it's not expected to be the use case 80% of the time. This is a sound approach that is not focusing on being the best of both worlds, but rather the best of one world (notebook) and not trying to be the best tablet at the same time.
In the same vein, Lenovo released their Tablet 2 - arguably the best Windows 8 tablet to date. This device is built following the same 80/20 rule.
A Tablet 2 buyer intends to use the device as a tablet 80% of the time. However, for the times when a keyboard and more notebook like usage is needed, Lenovo sells a great companion keyboard dock. This device is built to deliver a quality tablet experience the majority of the time, but is not trying to be something it is not--a great notebook.
This is how I have been encouraging buyers to think about the plethora of product options available. If you want the best tablet, get a product that is purpose built to deliver a quality tablet experience. If you want notebook, get a product that is purpose built to deliver the best notebook experience.
If you want a product that is a dual purpose device, whether you want a tablet first or a notebook first, then look for OEMs following the 80/20 rule.