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Why Windows 8 will kill the Laptop

Ardjuna Seghers


Why Windows 8 will kill the Laptop 5

I’m going to start this extended blog off with a pretty controversial statement: Windows 8 Will Kill The Laptop. But perhaps I should qualify that by adding: as we know it (and it might take a while).

Thanks to laptops, we’ve seen a steady decline in desktop PC sales, to the extent that some are predicting its imminent demise too - though most of the PC gamers I know still buy expensive desktop rigs with powerful graphics cards, the likes of which you won’t find in a mobile or all-in-one machine for love nor money.

What we’re likely to see with Windows 8 is laptops being pushed down the same slippery slope of decline. The standard laptop as you and I know it - your classical netbook, ultrabook or desktop replacement - is gradually going to be replaced by a more flexible, more versatile beast known under various names, but commonly called the convertible tablet. And this is a good thing.

Essentially, Microsoft is saying: ‘the tablet is grown up enough to be a primary device now. And it’s possible thanks to Windows 8’.

The evolution towards a hybrid tablet-laptop has been a long time coming. Years before a certain fruity company would popularise the tablet with its iPad, the big names in PCs were producing interesting convertibles, which eventually led to models like the Lenovo ThinkPad X220, Acer Aspire 1825PTZ and HP’s tm2.

These were exciting products in their day, but they were part of an underrepresented niche sector. In a world where laptops were not the ultra-slim, minimalist affairs we have become used to today thanks to the MacBook Air and Intel’s Ultrabook movement, they were aberrations. You were unlikely to get one unless you really wanted specifically what it offered, and by then the iPad had already arrived to take some wind from their sails.

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But now, thanks in part to the well-received Asus Transformer Prime, which showed that a no-compromise tablet with laptop-like battery/keyboard dock could be both slim and sexy, the convertible has finally come of age.

And Microsoft is capitalising on this hybridisation with Windows 8 - making it practically a standard for mobile devices using its new OS. As Steve Ballmer suggested in an interview with the Seattle Times: “[Windows 8] brings us into this world of much more mobile computing and more mobile form factors. I think it's going to be hard to tell what's a tablet and what is a PC."

The reasoning behind this unifying approach is simple. People like laptops. People also like tablets. But most folks won’t carry both at the same time if they don’t have to. So combine the two and everybody wins.

As Gordon Kelly said in his piece The Hybrid: Jack of All Trades Master of All?, these devices have reached a level of maturity that means they’re not only a genuine option, but potentially better than the things they replace. Even convertible Android tablets already have the potential to usurp the laptop, as Ed recently discovered when he was converted to the Asus Transformer way.

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By now you’ll probably know that Microsoft is producing its own tablet. It’s called Surface. What truly differentiates Microsoft’s Surface from the efforts of the other mobile OS makers, Google’s Nexus 7 as the Android champion and Apple’s iPad 3 for iOS, is that Surface comes with a keyboard ‘cover’ as standard. And not just one either. There’s a ‘touch’ version and a cover with actual, physical keys. This is in addition to stylus support on the Surface Pro.

The difference is, essentially, that Microsoft is going after the same productivity-oriented crowd of people that currently use regular Windows laptops. If a thinner, lighter tablet gives you the same functionality and battery life plus the ‘couch convenience’, for which you would usually buy a tablet as a secondary device, why not get it, after all? Essentially, Microsoft is saying: ‘the tablet is grown up enough to be a primary device now. And it’s possible thanks to Windows 8’.


September 18, 2012, 11:53 pm

I am not buying into this theory. There are certain things I do on a laptop which I am not able to do on a tablet/hybrid. And it's got nothing to do with specs, it's more about the medium. Not everything works better with a touch screen. I often put down my iPad and reach for a Macbook Air (as close as it gets between the two and hoping that illustrates my point).
It's like digital print. My kindle has replaced most books but it will not be replacing magazines any time soon. The very nature of magazines make reading it off a screen quite difficult. I'm just glad we have so many choices.


September 19, 2012, 3:54 pm

Simply put hybrid tablets will never replace laptops because the screen is prohibitively small for extended periods of work. You would need a dock and monitor which rather negates the need for a touch screen. In my opinion a separate tablet and laptop works better and I never have to queue for my turn on the laptop as I have to with the ipad.


September 19, 2012, 7:28 pm

Hey guys, thanks for the comments. Just going to answer in a general comment as you've made some good points which others may raise too.

What exactly could a Windows 8 laptop do that a Windows 8 convertible laptop could not? If you don't want to use the touchscreen for something, just stick to the touchpad and keyboard like with a regular laptop.

Your comparison of iPad vs MacBook is talking about two completely different devices with different interaction methods, capabilities and software.

They're not limited in size. There have been lots of 13-inch hybrids/convertibles announced already, and even a few models as large as 14 and 15 inches. This will only increase with time, and we may see 17in laptops joining soon.

"and I never have to queue for my turn on the laptop as I have to with the ipad." LOL. That just proves my point that combining both would make devices more desirable ;)


September 26, 2012, 5:50 pm

in a word...No! The touchscreen laptop will kill the tablet :)


September 27, 2012, 3:41 pm

Hey thanks for the comment!

Really, you would rather browse the web or view pics on the couch with a laptop on your lap than a tablet which can be a laptop when you need it to? Honest question.

Lon Bailey

September 27, 2012, 9:23 pm

I think if the Windows 8 tablet does Office effectively (which it should, unlike the Android machines), then it will probably take over the business market segment that does not only work via social media or emails. I found the transformer prime is not exactly well-tuned for business. Its diary synchronization, for example, is not automatic and you need to set start and end dates (which my HTC Android phone does not require), emails does not contain an automatic bcc field. Furthermore, I also agree with the other correspondent who mentioned screen size. I use a dual screen system giving me about 32" of diagonal space - not likely on a tablet.


October 1, 2012, 7:39 pm

Indeed, Office should be a great strength for Microsoft Win8 ARM tablets.

"Furthermore, I also agree with the other correspondent who mentioned screen size. I use a dual screen system giving me about 32" of diagonal space - not likely on a tablet." Since there are already 22-inch and 15-inch 'tablets' on the market, surely that comment applies just as much to laptops?

Mark Bailey

January 26, 2013, 5:51 pm

I wont buy one until the MS based systems start to build something of QUALITY instead of the cheap, flimsy, penny pinching designs. Say what you want about Apple, they are about the ONLY manufacture that builds a QUALITY based hardware. Name ONE MS based unit that even comes close to Apples quality. I can see all the hybrids bodies breaking, pure JUNK, like cheap China toys.

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