PC makers have been slammed during the past few years by the increasing preference of both business and consumer users for non-traditional computers.
Tablets haven’t replaced PCs as the main computing device for most business users, but so many are using them in addition to traditional laptop- or desktop machines that they’ve shifted that whole segment of the market toward ultra-portable machines that usually lack physical keyboards and almost always run an operating system other than Windows. Manufacturers responded with a flood of new tablet, smartphone and tablet/smartphone combos (sometimes called “phablets” in tribute to their refusal to decide whether to be fish or fowl).
That refusal is becoming its own market trend, according to the flood of competing tech-product announcements during the run-up to the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January.
The most consistent mobile-PC design appears to be machines that accommodate competing design requirements by including both tablet and PC functioanlity, according to analysts including Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies. Combination/convertible models that can be laptops at home and tablets on the road simply by removing the keyboard. Intel is pushing the combo market using the slogan ” a tablet when you want it, and a laptop when you need it,” Bajarin wrote Bajarin wrote in a piece for Time.
Current versions are slow; 2014 versions will be fast enough to make hybrids a less painful choice, he predicted.
AsusTek Computer, Inc.’s Transformer Book Trio TX201LA, for example, features both Windows 8 and Android on an 11.6-inch laptop running an Intel i7 processor and an Intel Atom chip, all with a 1920×1080 display and a docking station and keyboard.
Companies such as Bluestacks have become popular selling emulators that allow Android apps to run on Windows computers, but computer-makers are taking the idea a step further in a class of hardware referred to as “PC Plus. The machines have Android emulation built in from the start; the hardware is tuned run the Android code and user interface at decent speed.
The combinations – both tablet/notebook and Windows/Android – offer better future-proofing than single-experience models, Bajarin wrote, advising consumers to go for both when offered a choice.
Wearable computers won’t be nearly as practical, but will attract plenty of attention for their increasing power and shrinking prices, according to an IDG News Service story on Archos smartwatches that will list for $150, and crossover media tablet/smart-home-controllers that can run chat windows or remote-control smart-home products from the same 7-inch tablet.
LG Electronics is going more traditional with a super-light, super-powerful notebook that weighs only 2.1 pounds but is powered by a Haswell-based Core i5 and a 256-GB SSD.
High(er)-performance-computing manufacturer MSI Computer Corp. will move the opposite direction, pushing high-powered motherboards and graphics cards down into standard-sized laptops and all-in-ones with high-resolution displays and AMD processors.
While adding Both to the usual choice of This or That may make consumers happy, the Android/Windows combo machines, especially those championed by Intel, are viewed by some PC makers as a rebellion against the longstanding domination of the IT market by Microsoft.
“This [combination] should scare the heck out of Microsoft,” Bajarin wrote.
Image: AsusTek Computer