"In the short-term," says Forrester's Costa, "enterprises will likely hedge their bets and adopt keyboard-first tablets--hybrid laptops--like the HP Envy X2, which offer the possibility of tablet functionality without compromising traditional keyboard and mouse-centric enterprise productivity scenarios. Meanwhile, consumers will more strongly embrace touch-first tablets like the Microsoft Surface, which are more attuned to media consumption, Web browsing, and post-PC productivity scenarios."
Costa shares my belief that hybrids are transitional devices and that, as tablets become more powerful, business needs will bifurcate between two types of users. One breed of users will rely on a performance-packed tablet and accessory keyboard to get all of their work done. The other breed will have high-performance needs that require true mobile workstations. If this is the case, the long-term prognosis for traditional laptops (including Ultrabooks) looks bleak.
Bottom line: Tablets will ultimately dominate
In the end, today's hybrid laptops running Windows 8 will drive a long-term transition to pure tablets. Microsoft seems to be betting on this eventual outcome. The company's Surface Pro offers internal specs similar to those on many Ultrabooks, but it reduces the keyboard to a mere rubber mat that acts as a cover for the unit--this as opposed to a robust, laptop-style chassis. Given Microsoft's predilection for endless consumer research and testing, they may be onto something. (Though, granted, market failures like Zune might suggest otherwise!)
IDC's Mainelli says that next-generation tablets built on Intel's upcoming Haswell CPU, along with lower-cost solid-state drives, will lead to full-featured tablets that offer the battery life and performance users expect from today's laptops. In the context of this evolution, today's funky hybrids are merely a step along a winding path, enabling users to become more comfortable with Windows 8 and the touch experience.
Mainelli also suggests that increased tablet adoption could trigger renewed interests in desktops. Users may do most of their mobile work on a tablet, but then return to their desktop system when they require greater performance or when they need to dump large files. Certainly cloud storage will be too pricey for most users to store large volumes of digital media there.