Stage set for Windows 8 hybrid, iPad showdown

So, will that be a Windows 8 hybrid or iPad? That may be one of the bigger choices facing consumers in the next 12 months.

Intel's convertible/hybrid Windows 8 concept.
Intel's convertible/hybrid Windows 8 concept. Intel

Apple's CEO Tim Cook may have just thrown down the gauntlet to the Windows camp about nothing less than the future of portable computing.

Cook dismissed the idea of a hybrid MacBook-iPad device, during the company's second-quarter earnings conference call this afternoon. "You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going be pleasing to the user," he said.

The toaster-refrigerator hyperbolic analogy aside, it just so happens that Intel has begun to push the Windows 8 laptop-tablet hybrid concept . And it has even built a demo unit to prove the point (see photo above).

Intel's newly appointed PC chief, Kirk Skaugen, devoted a few minutes to the Ivy Bridge-based concept device in a keynote speech at an Intel conference in Beijing a couple weeks ago.

So, Intel -- and no doubt its coterie of PC partners -- obviously think this is viable. And an important segment of the future Windows 8 market.

Intel's pitch has been consistent: in "consumption" mode, it's a tablet and in productivity mode it's a standard laptop. The "best of both worlds" argument.

Of course, it's good for Intel because those Windows 8 hybrids will use the latest high-performance Ivy Bridge processors -- or Atom "Clover Trail" silicon.

And there are plenty on the way. "There are a number of compelling hybrid and convertible designs in the pipeline," a source familiar with future Intel-based Windows 8 devices told CNET.

Apple

But getting back to what Cook said. He went on to cite a Forrester Research study that forecasts 375 million tablets sold in 2016.

"I could not be happier with being in the market," Cook said referring to the iPad. "Now in terms of the market itself, IDC and Gartner and Forrester had some numbers out there...Forrester is 375 [million], somewhere around there. And so basically they're in the mid-300s, which is about where the PC market is today," he said.

What will a tablet look like in 2016? The distinction between a tablet, a hybrid, and a PC will likely get a lot murkier. "Hybrid devices...that feature a keyboard and touch do qualify as a tablet," according to Forrester's report.

And who's to say that Apple won't do something along the lines of a hybrid eventually -- and maybe Apple is just waiting so it can get the design right.

But in the more immediate future, Windows 8 device makers will try to trump the tablet with a best-of-both worlds play. Bring it on.

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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