Microsoft's pitch for hybrids: Tablets alone don't cut it

The tech titan is making the case for hybrids. This time the push comes before an expected flood of new 2-in-1 devices.

Steve Ballmer flourishes a Lenovo ThinkPad Helix hybrid tablet-laptop at the Build Conference Wednesday. He mocked the dedicated tablet as unusable and/or inefficient.
Steve Ballmer flourishes a Lenovo ThinkPad Helix hybrid tablet-laptop at the Build Conference Wednesday. He mocked the dedicated tablet as unusable and/or inefficient. Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer pitched upcoming "2-in-1" devices hard Wednesday at the Build Conference. Part of the pitch included mocking the dedicated tablet experience.

Here's what Ballmer said.

How many of us have gone to a meeting with somebody who brought a tablet and then when it comes time to actually take notes, writes them down on pencil and paper. Or can't get at the spreadsheet...or try to use it in terminal emulator mode...or take [a long time] to set up and turn their tablet into something that approximates a PC.

That statement -- a familiar refrain -- encapsulates the sales pitch for Windows 8/8.1 hybrids, aka 2-in-1 devices, convertibles, and detachables. You only need one hybrid device, not both a tablet and a laptop.

That, ostensibly, is the salient advantage Windows 8.1 (and past Windows 8) devices have over Apple and Android tablets.

Ballmer made his case at Build with the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix .

After praising the hybrid's weight (only two pounds), its mainstream Core i7 processor, built-in pen, "full-day" battery life, its keyboard (with extra integrated battery), he claimed it is both a "powerful PC" and "powerful, capable...tablet."

Microsoft appears to banking heavily on these devices to win over iPad and Android tablet users. In combination with Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Office, of course.

Microsoft's Surface -- which comes with a physical keyboard -- is another manifestation of this strategy.

Is Ballmer right? Will the crush of 2 in 1 devices running Windows 8.1 due to hit the market in the coming months strike a chord with users? If past is prologue, Ballmer may have to amp up his pitch.

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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