Research the phrase 'jack of all trades, master of none' and you will find the first recorded uses came without its famous caveat. It meant a master of integration, having numerous skills and being able to bring them all together to powerful effect. It was only during the 20th century that the phrase began to be interpreted in a more cynical way and I wonder if now it is time for the 21st century to reclaim the original meaning…
As IFA 2012 rushes to give away its secrets the theme of the event has already become clear: the hybrid. This new category of laptop-come-tablet claims it can successfully fulfil the requirements of each device as and when needed. Looking like an ultrabook, their touch enabled screens detach from their keyboards when you need something even more portable.
As a concept, hybrid laptop-turn-tablet devices are not new, but suddenly every major manufacturer is in on the act. Samsung (Ativ Smart PC and Smart PC Pro), Sony (Duo 11), Asus (Vivo Tab and Vivo Tab RT), Lenovo (IdeaTab S2110), Acer (W510 and W700), Dell (XPS Due 12 and 10), Toshiba (Satellite 925t) and HP (Envy x2 - pictured) are just some of the heavyweights seemingly keen to do themselves out of two sales for the price of one and they are doing a fine job of convincing us.
Ed wrote earlier this week that he had been converted by the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity because of its high resolution screen, switchable tablet/laptop form factor and super long battery life (especially when docked) and all these models make the same breakthroughs. Furthermore IFA's newbies come with a key differentiator: Windows 8.
The Microsoft Effect
For make no mistake about it, Microsoft is the key driving force behind this influx of hybrids. Windows 8 has long been the company's 'catch-up' platform, the one to heal the scarring between its smartphones and PCs. Furthermore in unifying its core user interfaces, and declaring that apps between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will be 95 per cent compatible, Microsoft has actually jumped far ahead of the integration offered by Google's Android and Chrome OS and even Apple's evolving Mac OS X Mountain Lion and iOS.
Furthermore, Microsoft wasn't prepared to let companies come up with their own hardware, it is now locking down minimum specifications and with its own Microsoft Surface tablet (above) it has produced its own cutting edge hybrid to not only compete with partners, but give them a template on how it should be done. Microsoft wants to tell the world: you need a laptop and you want a tablet, but following the October 26th Windows 8 release date we will give you the best of both worlds in a single purchase… beat that Apple.