Does Apple need a hybrid MacBook?

An Apple hybrid MacBook is an enticing idea. Should the company try to pull it off?

Could an Apple hybrid laptop show the Windows 8 crowd how combo devices should be done?
Could an Apple hybrid laptop show the Windows 8 crowd how combo devices should be done? Apple via USPTO

Windows 8 hybrids are out in force. Should Apple join the fray or just stay away?

An Apple patent, which came to light this week , proposes a convertible laptop featuring -- in certain configurations -- a touch-capable detachable display and a base station with a keyboard. Both can wirelessly transmit power and communicate wirelessly, according to the filing.

Imagining a MacPad

Should Apple come out with a hybrid MacBook?

Theoretically, this newfangled MacBook could obviate the need to haul around both an iPad and a MacBook.

At least that's what the Windows 8 crowd like Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo are proposing.

Here's the challenge as I see it (though I'm sure readers can cite other problems): in tablet mode, you want your device to be as small, light, and thin as possible -- like an iPad 4 or, even better, like iPad 2; in laptop mode, you want it to be fast enough to handle all the productivity you can throw at it.

Are those two paradigms reconcilable? At some point they may be, but I'm not sure we're there yet.

For example, the HP's Envy x2 tablet (at bottom) has good battery life, and the tablet itself (where the core electronics are) is light, but its Atom chip is relatively poky. Windows 8 Metro and light desktop productivity tasks are fine, but more-demanding games and serious multitasking are out.

Then there's Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet. It has laptop-class performance (via its Intel Ivy Bridge chip), but it's considerably thicker and heavier than an iPad and has inferior battery life.

Putting aside the question of whether Apple would actually do this, do you think Apple could pull off a device (as a complete Apple solution) that excels at straddling the laptop and tablet paradigms? Do you think it's necessary to have one device that serves as a tablet and a laptop?

Would it use iOS? Or a modified version thereof?

(And note that Intel is coming out with more power-efficient Haswell processors as well as more powerful -- and completely redesigned -- Bay Trail Atom chips. Apple, too, will undoubtedly release a more powerful A7 chip.)

HP's Envy x2 is one of the better Windows 8 'detachables' but it's a bit underpowered because of its Atom processor.
HP's Envy x2 is one of the better Windows 8 'detachables' but it's a bit underpowered because of its Atom processor. Hewlett-Packard
This article has been updated. It was originally published April 13, 2013 3:05 PM.
About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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