New hybrid devices are maturing and threatening to challenge the tablets and notebook computers that helped drive the mobile revolution. Combining the traditional tablet’s touch interface and portability with the notebook’s power to run resource-intensive business applications and media content, these devices are now a serious option for businesses escalating their mobility programs.
Mobility business case established
The business case for mobility is already well established. Consumers expect to complete transactions, request information and access service and support when on the move. Workers are increasingly used to sharing information ‘on the fly’, responding quickly to customer enquiries and creating presentations and reports while flying from one city to another.
Businesses and government departments have responded to these trends by making services available over a range of physical and online channels, embracing cloud computing, creating mobile applications and issuing tablets and smartphones to some workers while enabling others to access corporate systems on their personal portable devices.
However, people have still used notebooks to run business-critical applications and undertake resource-intensive consumer tasks.
Hybrid devices already emerging
The emergence of hybrid devices was demonstrated in the latest market research conducted by the Gartner Group. Worldwide tablet shipments were expected to grow 11 per cent in 2014, down from growth of 55 per cent in 2013, with Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal attributing the decline to a slowdown in new sales of basic tablets and a longer tablet replacement cycle.
"The device market continues to evolve, with the relationship between traditional PCs, different form factor ultramobiles (clamshells, hybrids and tablets) and mobile phones becoming increasingly complex," Atwal said in a press release.
He pointed out that Gartner expected hybrid devices to increase their share of a premium ultramobile category – lightweight mobile devices optimised for media consumption and boasting full data processing capabilities – from 22 per cent in 2014 to 32 per cent to 2018.
So what do hybrid devices offer businesses and consumers? According to a 2013 white paper prepared by Technology Business Research, these devices:
- Enable workers to use the touchscreen interface they’re accustomed to on smartphones and tablets on a notebook PC, bringing the device in line with current user expectations.
- Allow workers to interact with critical business systems using touch or a stylus, allowing them to enter data easily and intuitively at any time and from any location.
- Enable businesses and workers to use robust equipment governed by intensive quality-control programs.
Businesses should also review the performance of the operating systems and processors being developed for hybrid devices. Intel is continuing to improve the performance, energy efficiency and size of its processors, while Microsoft Windows 8X is optimised for touch PCs and tablets and provides access to apps from the Windows store.
The emergence of the hybrid model and devices like the Lenovo Yoga series indicates the PC market is becoming more diverse and responsive to the changing requirements of customers and their employers. For businesses, hybrid devices represent a step forward in giving employees the mobility they need while enabling them to access business-critical systems. However, as with all investments, it is important that each business considers what best suits its particular requirements and the returns it can achieve.