Windows 8 hybrids pose a similar threat to run-of-the-mill laptops. Tony Costa, a senior analyst with Forrester Research, says, "Hybrid laptops are rapidly blurring the distinction between tablets and laptops. What is emerging is a spectrum of tablet form factors that range from keyboard-first tablets--that is, hybrid laptops--to touch-first tablets that offer keyboards as an accessory. Within this context, yes, hybrid laptops will threaten the market share of traditional laptops."
Why hybrids are doomed to 'transitional' status
The first round of hybrids are definitely immature products, however. Manufacturers are toying with different designs to see what sticks, and much of what's about to hit the market reeks of experimentation. Tom Mainelli, IDC's research director for mobile connected devices, says, "Early on, there will be a fair amount of confusion, so [hybrids] may not get much traction. The biggest concern is that you end up with just an okay notebook and okay tablet."
The most common pattern for a tablet-laptop hybrid, often called a "slate," consists of a fully detachable tablet that houses both the hybrid's display and its key working components--CPU, memory, and storage. This slate then connects to a simple keyboard dock. Some slates have batteries in both the display and the dock, for longer battery life when the device is in laptop mode. Examples include the Fujitsu Stylistic Q702 and the HP Envy X2.
Unfortunately, most hybrids with a detachable tablet component may rely on the latest Intel Atom CPU (code-named "Clovertrail") and may offer just 32GB or 64GB of storage. The low-performance processor and limited storage will relegate these slates to service as secondary devices; serious consumers and business users will need systems with beefier specs. Cheap cloud storage might offset a hybrid's lack of local storage, but take a look at your laptop or Ultrabook's onboard storage needs today, and consider whether you'll be happy with a 64GB ceiling in a hybrid, the cloud notwithstanding.
The other main hybrid design involves some flavor of fold-over display. In this arrangement, the main chassis houses the keyboard as well as the guts of the system, and the display folds over to create a flat device when used in tablet mode. This scheme is reminiscent of the one used by the original Tablet PCs (remember the early 2000s and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition?), but the new devices are thinner and more elegant.