Hybrid ultrabooks, devices that can be used like a tablet or a laptop, will soon be a common sight in the workplace. At least, that’s what Intel and Microsoft are hoping. The former sees the format as the perfect vehicle for its Ivy Bridge chipsets, while Redmond is looking to use the format to grab a share of the tablet operating system market.
The argument for the devices is compelling. Tablets have taken both the consumer and, to a lesser extent, the business worlds by storm since Apple launched the iPad in April 2010. People are attracted by their touchscreens, intuitive interfaces, instant-on capability and portability.
BBC CTO John Linwood told Computing shortly after the devices were launched in the UK: “If I have five minutes between meetings I can quickly open my iPad and fire off some emails. That isn’t possible if I need to wait for a laptop to boot up.”
Ultrabooks also benefit from this instant-on feature, but are bulkier and heavier than tablets. This is where the hybrid ultrabook could shine: remove the screen from the keyboard and you’ve got a tablet; when you’re back in the office, plug it into its dock and you’ve got a desktop replacement, which for most users is superior to a tablet for anything beyond basic tasks.
John Lewis IT director Paul Coby said: “Users want simplicity, apps and style. Manufacturers of the ultrabook platform will need to meet these three criteria to crack the market.”
Enterprises could also be attracted by the economic advantages of providing and supporting a single hybrid ultrabook to employees, rather than a tablet, laptop and possibly a desktop too. Early indications are that they will sell for about £650.
At its developer forum in Beijing recently, Intel showed off a prototype hybrid ultrabook called Cove Point (formally the Letexo). While no manufacturer has yet signed up to produce branded versions, clearly Intel is betting heavily on the enterprise viability of the form.
One likely vendor for the device is Dell, which claims to have had significant success with its XPS 13 ultrabook, although it declined to provide sales figures.
Bryan Jones, executive director, Europe public large enterprise marketing at Dell, said that the device has proved popular with businesses. “It’s a convergence of consumer technology and behaviour with the corporate environment,” he said. “Half of the sales for the XPS 13 are coming from enterprise customers, illustrating the increasing desire for ultrabooks in that market.”
Microsoft’s big chance
Intel’s regular bedfellow Microsoft is also set to prosper should hybrid ultrabooks
realise their potential.
Robert Rutherford, managing director of IT consultancy QuoStar Solutions, said that Microsoft would be the obvious choice to provide the operating system.
“Windows 8 could allow Microsoft to sew up the mobile market, which would give Apple plenty to worry about as the market leader in tablets,” he said.