Wikipedia still classifies a hybrid computer as a cross between an analog and a digital computer. This will have to be updated soon unless they decide to refer to this new class of mobile devices as hybrid laptops.
In a world where computer users are more comfortable swiping, pinching and tapping, the old model of a mouse and keyboard may have to give way to a touchscreen-based interaction. At the same time, many users of touchscreen-only devices like tablets often complain that they can't do any serious writing without a "real" keyboard. What if you could have the best of both worlds, that is a light and thin touchscreen tablet and a keyboard too? Hybrid laptops are starting to provide that exact mix. Part of hybrid laptops' success will depend on how well Windows 8 is received since Microsoft's new OS with its Metro UI is a perfect match for a touchscreen/keyboard combo. Here's a rundown of some recent entries in this new class of hybrid laptop computers (sometimes called "convertibles" or "transformers").
Lenovo's Yoga is Very FlexibleLenovo will have many new laptops running Windows 8 this fall. One clever laptop is a hybrid called Yoga presumably because it is flexible enough to bend around and turn itself into a tablet. It's a clever idea although some early users don't care for the fact that the bottom of their tablet is a keyboard.
The Microsoft Surface Could Be a Good Reference DesignThere has been some grumbling about Microsoft's hybrid laptop called Surface competing with its partners but whether or not the Surface ends up grabbing a lot of market share or just serves as a reference design, it should help generate some enthusiasm for Windows 8 on mobile devices. The Surface runs a version of Windows that has been ported to an ARM processor and includes a keyboard built into the cover as well as a kickstand.
HP Envy x2HP will be selling an 11.6-inch hybrid with a detachable keyboard. No pricing info yet but HP says it will come with Beats Audio, NFC and an 8 MP camera. We're not sure a detachable keyboard is the most convenient way to use a hybrid although many iPad owners are quite happy with their third-party keyboards.
Toshiba Satellite 925t "Slider" Has the PowerThis hybrid from Toshiba might remind you more of a large slider smartphone but you have to admit, it does make it easier to ditch the keyboard when you want to be in tablet mode. The Satellite 925t is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor and includes a couple of USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port among other connectivity options. Educated guesses put a $1,000 price tag on this hybrid.
Fujitsu Stylistic Q702 Undocks to Become a TabletThe new 11.6-inch hybrid with a high quality AH-IPS LCD display from Fujitsu will offer different input methods including a touchpad, touchscreen or stylus. The keyboard has its own battery which adds 6 hours to the display's 5 hours for a total of 11 hours of use.
Dell XPS Duo 12 SwivelsThis 12.5-inch hybrid swivels the display to turn it into a tablet or laptop. Dell hasn't released much info about this device other that it will have a high resolution 1920 x 1080 display.
Asus Taichi Hybrid Has Two ScreensAsus's approach to a hybrid is to provide a device with two screens. One display, which is what normally might be the cover, is a high resolution, 1920 x 1080 IPS touchscreen while the other "laptop screen" is also a 1920 x 1080p IPS LCD screen. Asus will offer an 11.6 and 13-inch version both of which will be powered by the latest Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge processor. Both screens have front facing cameras. This hybrid has impressive specs but if the "inside" display is not a touchscreen it could make using the Windows 8 Metro UI less fun.
Samsung "Detachable" Hybrid Has a StylusThe new Samsung Series 5 Slate features a 1366 x 786 11.6-inch display that can use Samsung's pressure sensitive S Pen stylus along with a detachable keyboard. The Slate is powered by a new Intel Atom processor, will run Windows 8 and cost $749 (with keyboard). Samsung will also be offering a Core i5 version called the Series 7 which will sell for $1199.
Sony's Vaio Duo 11Sony's new hybrid sort of slides and folds itself into a laptop or tablet. It has an 11.6-inch touchscreen display and will be powered by an Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor. Sony continues to do its best to price its products out of the market with the Duo 11 with an expected price in Japan of $1,930 (¥150,000) when it goes on sale there on October 26th.
What Will It Take For Hybrids to Succeed?With the launch of Windows 8 many laptop vendors have announced products geared for the new touch-friendly OS. Hybrid laptops could offer an ideal platform to run Windows 8 however so far, it appears that Windows 8 may have a rough road ahead due partly to its shift to a new touch-friendly user interface. If Windows 8 takes too long to gain adoption it could hurt the popularity of hybrid laptops. We are also very eager to see gesture-based laptops using high resolution gesture input devices that could make touchscreens unnecessary. A gesture-based generation of hybrids could also help grow the popularity of hybrid laptops and even Windows 8.