Why Apple Should (Probably) Make a Hybrid or Convertible PC

Tech.Pinions’ Tim Bajarin says that talks with IT directors by his research firm Creative Strategies reveal strong interest in hybrids or convertible laptops, exemplars of which that have recently entered the marketplace being Lenovo’s Yoga and HP’s Elitebook Convertible, which are deemed attractive for a variety of reasons, the main one being that instead of IT departments having to support a separate tablet and laptop, these converged products provide both in a single package.

Bajarin observes that while an IT-capable tablet might cost $600 or $700 and an IT grade laptop sell for upwards of $900- $1300 depending on configuration, convertible or hybrid computers are priced in the $900-$1300 range, which is substantially cheaper than buying a separate laptop and tablet combined, noting that he’s also seeing some real interest in 2-in-1 hybrids and convertibles with small business users and some consumers as well.

Bajarin predicts that hybrids and convertibles could be the “sleeper product” of 2013, and could catch on with business users in a big way, and thinks Apple may be obliged by competition to create a new device that might be called AirPad or iPadAir – possibly an ultrathin laptop like the current MacBook Air with a detachable display screen that would allow it to morph into an iPad-esque touchscreen tablet.

However, Bajarin acknowledges that Apple CEO Tim Cook is recently on record declaring that in Apple’s estimation this type of device doesn’t make sense, and that Microsoft’s new Surface tablet PC hybrid has been selling slowly in the early going at least.

Then again, the late Steve Jobs famously declared that tablet with screens smaller than 9.7 inches didn’t make sense and were “worthless,” but now there’s the 7.85-inch iPad mini.

Bajarin observes that about a dozen hybrid or convertible PCs will come to market in Q1 or Q2 of 2013, and says some of them are “stunning” in their design and functionality. And since most of these machines qualify under Intel’s Ultrabook spec., they will be heavily promoted as part of a stepped-ujp campaign to convince users to buy Ultrabooks. With their innovative designs and priced mostly under $1,000, he maintains that hybrids and convertibles should “really take off ” in 2013, which will oblige Apple to reconsider creating a similar type of product.

Personally, I think the more attractive value equation and simple logic of convertible laptop/tablets will ultimately prove irresistable, although as I observed in a recent commentary, it’s probably prudent of Apple to wait a bit to see how UltraBook convertibles fare in the real-world marketplace before committing themselves.

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