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Doh! The trouble with hybrid notebooks is that retailers can’t demo them

by David Needle

August 14 2013

As the PC industry flounders, one popular target for criticism has been the new generation of hybrid notebooks that also have tablet features (i.e. a touchscreen).

Hybrid sales have fallen short of expectations for any number of reasons. One is the growing popularity of tablets as a less expensive alternative. And while hybrid notebooks include a touchscreen, the systems are heavier and bulkier than tablets and don’t offer the same portability.

(Some, like the HP Envy x2,  offer a detachable screen that can function like a tablet with its own internal battery).

Merlin Kister, a brand manager for Intel, told All Things D that one of the reasons hybrid notebooks aren’t selling as well as expected at retail is that would be buyers don’t get to see all they can do.

That’s because the hybrids look like any other notebook. Because of security concerns, the hybrids are typically locked down in such a way that the ability to flip the display around so it’s more like using a tablet is impossible.

Kister said Intel is working on ways to help retailers present the devices more effectively.

A new generation of hybrids powered by Intel's Haswell

Analyst Tim Bajarin says the limited demo capability could well be a factor in some buying scenarios, but he thinks the bigger issue is price and battery life.

“You are going to see Intel and notebook vendors be a lot more aggressive this Fall, starting in September, on price with the 2-in-1 (hybrid) systems,” said Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

He said there are over 350 million notebooks out there that are three years or older. that get less than 4 hours of battery life.

“When consumers get the opportunity to upgrade, our research shows the number one reason will be if they can double the battery life,” he said. “And now with Intel’s new Haswell chip, you can do that with these new Windows-based 2-in-1 notebooks. Nine-to-10 hours of battery life isn’t as good as the 14 hours I get with my MacBook Air, but it’s still a game changer.” 

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