Like a speeded-up version of evolution, the new Windows 8 hybrids are showing up in every conceivable approach to combining a laptop with a tablet. At the big IFA consumer electronics show now taking place in Berlin, as well as in other venues, new hybrids for the coming operating system are being shown by Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Asus, Toshiba and others.
In fact, so many hybrids for Windows 8 are coming out -- spurred on by Windows 8's embrace of touchscreen interactivity while maintaining a traditional interface option -- that some industry observers are characterizing the hybrid as the key theme of the IFA show.
Envy X2, Slate PCs
Android-based hybrids are there as well, but it's the Windows 8 ones that are attracting the most attention, since they will help point the direction to the new kinds of computing that has promised for Windows 8.
There's the Envy X2 from HP, whose 11.6-inch screen attaches to the keyboard via a magnetic latch. When unconnected, the X2, which has an Atom and 2 GB of memory, becomes a Windows 8 tablet.
Samsung's ATIV Smart PC Pro has a detachable keyboard, and an S-Pen stylus powered by Wacom. The Pro features an Intel Core i5, an 11.6-inch display, 4 GB memory, an up-to-256 GB solid-state drive, and the ability to show 1080p HD.
The company's Slate PCs are laptop/tablet hybrids for Windows 8, where the keyboard pops off. The Series 5 Slate offers a next-gen Intel Atom processor, 11.6-inch display, multi-touch trackpad, S-Pen and Bluetooth 4.0. The Series 7 Slate, also with an 11.6-inch screen, features an Intel Core i5. Both come with the S-Pen.
Sony is showing the Vaio Duo 11, an 11-inch tablet with a slider that reveals a full keyboard. The Duo 11 features a backlit keyboard, Intel Core i3/i5/i7, 128 or 256 GB of solid-state drive, a digitizer pen, and VGA, HDMI, USB 3.0, NFC, GPS and Wi-Fi.
'One of Everything'
Toshiba has the Satellite U925T, offering a 12.5-inch screen with a slider mechanism to hide the keyboard. Asus is showing the Taichi, featuring two displays on opposite sites of the lid. When the lid is open, it's a laptop; when folded down, the top display on the lid turns it into a tablet.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, is attending IFA. He said that there "doesn't appear to be any sort of theme" to the various hybrid form factors, which seem to be "one of everything."
He noted the range of approaches, from Sony's approach, where the screen slides up, to the Dell XPX Duo 12, where "the entire screen flips over." The Dell model has a screen that is hinged in the center of the left and right sides.
Although he's tried out a few models, Greengart said they appeared "pretty unsatisfying" as computing devices, but he noted that the Dell XPX Duo 12 had "promise."