A laptop with a detachable tablet: Convergence 2.0?

Like many business travelers, I carry a number of different gadgets when I travel. I have a laptop for note-taking and video editing, a tablet for media consumption and recreational web surfing, and of course my BlackBerry. It’s enough to make me – particularly my back – long for forgotten trend of device convergence.

No one really knows what the next trend in computing will be. Certainly the media tablet came out of nowhere. According to IDC Canada analyst David Senf, the media tablet market in Canada has grown from practically nothing three years ago to $1.2 billion today, rivaling the server market in size. Change can happen fast.

Many are predicting the death of the PC but the growth numbers don’t support that prediction, and there’s many things a tablet just can’t do. They each have their uses. Sometimes you want the tablet form factor, and sometimes you need the greater computing power (and keyboard) of a laptop. But carrying around two devices isn’t the best option. Could it be time for device convergence to make a comeback?

Yes, and no. I’m beginning to see some interest from vendors to merge the two form factors in a unique way that allows users to get the benefits of both a tablet and a laptop: the hybrid laptop. Essentially, when you want a laptop with keyboard that’s what you’ve got, and when you just need a tablet, the screen detaches from the keyboard to become a fully functional tablet.

One vendor that’s early off the market is Asus with its Eee Pad Transformer Prime. It’s an Android-based laptop with a detachable tablet as the screen. Other vendors such as Fijitsu have also been experimenting with modular laptops with detachable smartphones and digital cameras.

For the business traveler though, Windows 8 may well be the game changer. A hybrid laptop/tablet based on Android wouldn’t make sense for the business user that needs Excel and other business applications. But a hybrid device based on Windows 8 would give a business user what they need from a laptop, and give them a rich touch experience when they detach they keyboard go into tablet mode. It would be one less device for them to carry around and a good fit for the bring your own device trend.

I don’t think they’ll be ready to launch with Windows 8, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the major PC vendors coming to market soon with hybrid laptops with detachable tablets. It won’t be a threat to the dominance of Apple’s iPad, but for many it would be a great fit. Let’s call it Convergence 2.0.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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