Hybrids – the brave new world of personal PCs?

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The Consumer Electronics Show kicked off on Tuesday giving everyone a preview of 2013’s biggest tech trends. One trend I am particularly interested in is the growth of tablets and tablet hybrids.

It’s clear that consumers’ appetites for portable computing is growing based on CEA data from the Compete/ Google 2012 Portable PC Shopper Study. Tablets are projected to drive the most growth in the portable PC segment.Consumer Shipments - Google Study

The robust 2013 sales projections for tablets makes perfect sense to me; as a frequent business traveler, I have been waiting for a device that combines the portability and coolness of a tablet with the computing prowess and functionality of a laptop. So far the two most notable products in the space–that are currently available to consumers–are Lenovo’s Yoga and Microsoft’s Surface.

Lenovo’s Yoga comes in two sizes 11’’ and 13’’ and has everything most users need from a laptop. Despite a more traditional form factor Yoga’s nifty foldable keyboard hinges backward–as the name suggest–effectively turning it into a slightly heavy and thick tablet. Plenty of storage (256MB) and physical keyboard definitely make it a workable solution for someone needing a highly portable, multitasking gadget with more traditional PC functionality.

The Surface is smaller and arguably sleeker with a TouchCover doubling as a keyboard! The kickstand! Heck, even the box looks nice! The Surface is 10.6” and 1.5lbs, making it slightly smaller and much lighter than the smallest Yoga. The detachable keyboard allows it to truly function like a tablet while still retaining most of its PC functionality.

Microsoft’s brand power and marketing budget have helped drive significant attention to the Surface. In November 2012 traffic to product pages on Microsoft and Amazon surpassed 1M Unique Visitors, while traffic to Lenovo’s Yoga hovered around 300K.

A further point in Surface’s favor is its ability–as a hybrid device would– to appeal equally to PC and tablet shoppers.  Based on Compete’s behavioral data, Surface shoppers were equally likely to have also been laptop or tablet shoppers, whereas Yoga shoppers were much likelier to have been looking for a laptop.

Yoga Surface Laptop Tablet Cross Buyers

What we’ve seen at CES so far leaves no doubt that we are going to be seeing quite a few more laptop/tablet–and phone/tablet– hybrids in the coming months. In his opening address, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer highlighted the tech giant’s new processor technologies and Windows 8’s ability to support powerful and lightweight tablets. Samsung touted its Note II and Galaxy Tab 10.1. Sony, Asus and Acer all presented their takes on the hybrid trend. So it seems that “the brave new world” of personal PCs has arrived at CES 2013; stay tuned for an update from the showroom!