Hybrid devices

Orde Saunders' avatarPublished: by Orde Saunders

A recent Gartner report shows that Android has overtaken iOS in worldwide tablet market share and, given this mirrors the situation on phones, this is hardly surprising.   What I found more interesting is their assessment that the next market segment that will grow is hybrid devices - i.e. those that can fulfil the role of both laptop and tablet, frequently thanks to a detachable keyboard.

This is an area where Windows pretty much defines the market, take a trip round a decent sized high street consumer electronics store and you'll see a fair selection of these hybrid devices all with Windows 8.  For all the deserved criticism of Windows 8 as an operating system - especially for traditional desktop use - the hybrid device is an area where it seems to make sense.  Whilst it does have a full window managed desktop environment in the "Desktop" interface which might appeal to someone who wants much more of a laptop than a tablet, it's the full screen touch based interface that strikes me as having the most appeal for a hybrid device.  The window management features such as fast task switching and split screen views are useful for working on a task that might need cross referencing between a couple of applications and a wide-screen landscape tablet provides enough screen real estate to make this practical.

By contrast the Android and iOS model of only having one full screen application available at a time makes sense on a small screen but, despite features being available,  task switching is less convenient than in Windows 8 and - save for Samsung's launcher customisations available on some devices - there are no split screen views. 

The other area where Windows 8 is ahead of Android (and iOS is dead in the water) is dedicated hardware for hybrid devices.  There are any number of after market keyboards, including many that act as cases for specific tablet models, but - in my experience - they cannot compete with hardware that has been designed by the manufacturer to properly integrate with the device:  attachment points are more secure and reliable and they will typically have a hardware interface to the main device as opposed to a Bluetooth paring.

Whilst people may not see the need for hybrid devices the same was said about tablets before sales took off and the same was said about 7" tablets before sales of these too took off.  Whilst Apple created the tablet market and Android led the way with the smaller form factor it looks like Windows is positioned to lead the way with hybrid devices.

This post was written and published on an Asus Transformer hybrid Android device.