If Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has his way, tablets won’t replace laptop computers. Speaking at the annual Build Conference, Ballmer made a strong push for “2-in-1” hybrid devices — tech solutions that fit tablet and laptop functionality into a single, innovative product.
Such a combination device isn’t new to the market. Lenovo’s ThinkPad Helix functions in a way similar to what Ballmer envisions for the future of personal computing. The 2-in-1 device features a detachable screen that can be used on its own as a fully functional tablet or it can be connected to a keyboard to serve as a traditional clamshell laptop.
The ThinkPad Helix runs on Microsoft Windows 8. Ballmer hopes that Microsoft’s stylish new operating system can be the cornerstone for yet another revolution in personal computing.
Laying the Groundwork for the Next Generation of Computing
In Ballmer’s opinion, the transition to tablet computing has left plenty of room for device improvement. In making his case for hybrid devices, Ballmer panned current tablet functionality.
“How many of us have gone to a meeting with somebody who brought a tablet and then when it comes time to actually take notes, writes them down on pencil and paper?” Ballmer asked. “Or can’t get at the spreadsheet … or try to use it in terminal emulator mode … or take [a long time] to set up and turn their tablet into something that approximates a PC.”
Ballmer’s vision is one of hybrid devices that quickly convert from PC to tablet and vice versa. Fittingly, Microsoft’s new operating system is better equipped than rival Apple and Android systems to handle dual functionality.
Ballmer also praised the top-notch specs of the ThinkPad Helix as a way of demonstrating the potential for hybrids. The coming months will see a market influx of a slate of 2-in-1 devices built in a mold similar to the Helix. Microsoft and Ballmer are betting heavily that the hybrid devices will be a hit, so it will be interesting to see how consumers respond to this next iteration of personal computing.
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