Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Windows 8 ushers in gadgets that flip from tablet to laptop

PHOTO | FILE Design of the Surface Tablet includes a stand that appears to be a magnetic hinge that helps in positioning the gadget as a laptop.

PHOTO | FILE Design of the Surface Tablet includes a stand that appears to be a magnetic hinge that helps in positioning the gadget as a laptop.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ESMOND SHAHONYA shahonya76@gmail.com

When Microsoft launched the Windows 8 operating system last year, the die was cast for manufacturers to develop corresponding devices. At first glance, the surface tablet symbolised what consumers would expect from the operating system. Incidentally, Windows 8 is a hybrid OS and creativity from a device maker pointed to hybrid devices. Let us take a look at the latest trend of hybrid-tablet/PCs.

The Windows 8 software supports a touch-based interface and the traditional PC user interface. In essence, a gadget that runs on the system can be controlled by touch gestures or use of the mouse and keyboard. This flexibility has over the past months set in motion creativity by device makers, thus ushering in an era of  hybrid PC gadgets.

This category of devices is aimed at a population of users that would wish to embrace the marvels of a tablet but still enjoy the convenience of a traditional keyboard or touch-pad. So, this brings forth the combination of a fully-fledged laptop and a tablet into one common gadget.

Poised as a new era in the PC world, convertible PCs are gaining ground in the mobile computing sphere since Microsoft gave them a head start with the Windows 8 software. There are a sizeable number that are available in global markets. Given that Windows 8 is also gaining adoption among users, chances are that device makers will continue to release more convertible PC/tablet models to suite a wide variety of markets.

The hardware design of the convertibles might slightly differ from one manufacturer to another, but the bottom line is that they all run on Windows operating system and are tablets that can be easily flipped into laptops.

Touch Cover

The Windows Surface tablet comes in two versions; one type uses the Windows 8 operating system and the other Windows RT. Both have the simplicity to enable users to navigate on the screen using either a combination of mouse and keyboard, or with the use of a touch gesture on the screen using a finger.

Surface tablets have a pressure-sensitive cover that doubles as a fully functional QWERTY keyboard. The Touch Cover uses a magnetic click to connect to the hybrid gadget. The design of the Surface Tablet includes a stand that appears to be a magnetic hinge which helps in positioning the gadget as a laptop.

The convertible hybrid design is also evident in several other gadgets, which include, ASUS Vivo Tab, HP ENVY x2, Samsung ATIV Smart PC, and the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga.

Dell’s new XPS 12 gadget is also a convertible PC combining the design of an ultra book and a tablet. The gadget has a flexible flip-hinge design for easy transition from keyboard to touch-screen input.

As the roll-out of Windows 8 gathers momentum in the ICT sphere, there are high chances of more gadgets being customised for the platform. The marvel of a hybrid state brings into focus the fate of corresponding devices. Do these hybrid PC tablets stand a chance in modern mobile computing?

These types of gadgets are a relief to a selected portion of users. However, one fact stands out; pricing and actual performance are vital in the marketing of such composite devices.

In the mobile computing world, the marvels of technology and creativity of device makers can be interesting. Given the dynamics of trends fuelled by consumer tastes, industry players are spending considerable time in developing new products.

Tablets and smartphones are now taking centre stage in mobile computing, unlike in the past where PCs and laptops were the main contenders. We have seen a blend of a smartphone and a tablet that has given forth “phablets” like Galaxy Note II and LG Optimus VU. The “phablet” gadgets have received acceptance from users.

In the post-PC era, this latest creativity of hybrid-PC/tablet has a good chance of succeeding.

The author is an ICT analyst and a telecommunication engineer.