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Opinion: Will rumoured hybrid laptop star at Windows 10 event?


PCHF Tech News
Jan 10, 2015

One of the more interesting rumours about today's Windows 10 event is that Microsoft will be revealing a hybrid smartphone-laptop device that will target businesses.

We have had our fair share of hybrid smartphone/laptop devices from the past, all of which have been poorly executed and turned out to be commercial failures.

The ones I remember are the Motorola Atrix and its laptop dock (or lap dock as it was called), the Asus Padfone (which is still going), the 2011 Acer Ethos, which featured a detachable touchpad, the 2013 MSI GS70 Stealth with a touchscreen trackpad, the 2012 Clamcase yet-to-be-released Clambook, the exquisitely designed but never-released Asus Eee Keyboard PC and to some extent, the Palm Foleo. Back in 2013, BlackBerry hinted that it might come up with a smartphone-docking accessory but that never happened.

So will Microsoft launch a form factor where so many others have failed? Well, it depends how intricate the integration is between the laptop and the smartphone. Will they use the same operating system? Will they be able to work independently? What set of features will they share? What about the mouse pointer?

Bleeding edge technology?

I would like to see Microsoft launch a prototype laptop that come with a detachable Windows (not Windows Phone) smartphone that doubles as a trackpad. The one on the 11-inch MacBook Air for example has a diagonal of 4.7-inch, bigger than the screen found on the Microsoft Lumia 630.

Both would work from the same operating system, being essentially clones of each other, in sync and capable of working independently.

But that's highly unlikely to happen because of its boldness (which might prove to be a bit too ambitious for OEMs to embrace) and the level of complexity involved in designing such a system, not least because it would require having a unified operating system.


That's part of Microsoft future plans as confirmed by Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, back in July 2014 but we're just not there yet.

Instead, I think that Microsoft will go for something similar to the Clambook or the Foleo; a tethered accessory that looks like a laptop and can be totally taken over by your smartphone (different from, say, Remote Desktop Connection).

It would give partners like Lenovo and Dell something to look forward to, both for the laptop and smartphone markets, increasing the possibly of potential bundles and upsells that could lead to more revenues, increased profits and higher margins.

(I dreamt about the same thing for Apple, nearly four years ago, in another life.)

Making Windows Phone work closely with Windows 10

The other less-glamourous route would be to have something akin to Samsung's Sidesync (or the popular Airdroid) but built in (or bundled with) Windows 10.

It's a fairly easy feature to add, allowing the user to control their mobile devices using their desktop peripherals (keyboard and mouse or trackpad), share files (and even clipboard content), bring up a virtual clone of the smartphone to the desktop (great for taking calls) as well as using the smartphone display as a second (or third screen).

That would give another good (but probably not compelling) reason for Windows users to jump on the Windows Phone bandwagon.

But would that be enough to qualify as a hybrid? Certainly not, but then, that's assuming that the rumour unearthed by The Information was genuine in the first place.



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