Surprise surprise, CES has not even officially started and it is all about tablets. We knew this was going to be the case and I do not want to dwell too much about the general tablet topic or the 7inch vs 10inch debate as I have done that in previous blogs and reports. What is interesting to me is the hybrid solutions that we have seen from the likes of Asus and Lenovo.
Asus has shown a slider form factor similar to what Lenovo presented last year. With this you basically have two in one: tablet and mini-notebook (aka netbook/smartbook). Some would argue that you could just do a netbook with a touch screen and let that be that. At the end of the day you give the option, which is what people want: Keyboard for typing and touch screen for manipulating content. The point is though, that when you want to use the screen alone, say to read a book or surf the web, you do not want the keypad to get in the way. This is why having a detachable screen will appeal to many users. At least initially… Touch-type technology is improving quite quickly and vendors are certainly focusing on improving the experience. Android’s new OS release Gingerbread has improved on the virtual keypad. So although the iPad keyboard seems to be a hot-seller accessory I wonder how long users will feel the need for a physical keypad. We are looking into running a consumer panel on tablets use models and I am keen to hear from “normal” consumers – rather than my peers and people in the business – if they tend to focus on one task that requires touch and move to a different task that requires a keyboard rather than jumping between the two within the same task. I think the same usage behaviour applies to smartphones that have touch and qwerty.
The other side of hybrid is around the OS. Lenovo offers LePad that slides into the base of a U1 so that you have Android and Windows in the same machine. Surely if Microsoft decided to bring Windows Phone 7 to a tablet form factor this kind of devices would make everyone happy. At the end of the day the reason why you want Microsoft and Android in the same machine is to cover your work and play needs.
Time to hit the floor and see what else is coming….wish me luck!
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