Everyone with an iPhone and Mac or PC is an appropriate customer for an iPad. Indeed, Steve Jobs’ introduction of the original iPad was delivered squarely between Mac and iPhone. To differentiate their wares, Apple’s competitors have gone the route of hybrid devices. Should Apple make a hybrid Mac and iPad?
Pioneers vs. Settlers
There’s an old adage that goes something like this. ‘Pioneers get the arrows in the back, while settlers get to own the land.’
Maybe that explains why Apple usually isn’t the first to jump onto new technology advances and disrupts traditional markets with products that are usually better than the pioneering efforts.
For example, the Mac wasn’t the first PC with a graphical user interface. It was the first one to do it right.
The iPod wasn’t the first portable media player. It was the first one to do it right. Likewise, both iPhone and iPad were not the first smartphones or tablets with touch screens.
Arguably, Apple’s products were the first ones to do it right. As much as we think of Apple as an innovator and a market disruptor of product segments, Apple is no pioneer.
On Product Differentiation
Whether Mac, iPhone, or iPad, our favorite Mac maker’s competitors need to differentiate their products from Apple’s products.
That explains lower prices, plastic cases, larger screens, and, of course, hybrid devices which run various versions of Windows, or even Windows and Android OS.
In general, the market has frowned upon hybrid devices, much as the market frowned upon over complicated smartphones and heavier-than-thou tablet PCs with a stylus.
Is it time for Apple to disrupt both the traditional notebook market and the rapidly growing tablet market, including hybrids, with a hybrid that really works well?
MacBook Air Meet iPad Air
The differences between a MacBook Air and an iPad Air are less than we think at first glance. The MacBook Air for $999 comes with 128GB of storage, an 11.6-inch display, a keyboard, 4GB RAM, weighs just over 2 pounds and gets up to 9 hours of batter life.
The iPad Air starts at $499 and comes with 16GB of storage, a 9.7-inch display, an onscreen keyboard, 1GB of RAM, and weighs about a pound. The MacBook Air is more powerful, of course, but costs twice as much and weighs twice as much.
What would be required to create a single hybrid device that melds MacBook Air with iPad Air, OS X with iOS? It would have to run both operating systems, of course, but that’s trivial for Apple. It would need a thin but sturdy physical keyboard, also trivial.
Apple could choose a CPU configuration that runs both Intel and ARM, but that’s expensive and complicated and would drain battery life quickly. It’s more likely that a hybrid device of OS X and iOS would go to a 64-bit ARM CPU and a version of Mac OS X to match.
The keyboard would need the option to be separated from the touchscreen, also a trivial engineering feat for Apple. An OS X and iOS hybrid device would still need to be lighter and less expensive than a MacBook Air, but could be priced higher and be slightly heavier than an iPad Air.
As tablets impact the traditional PC market and change how we use our desktops and notebooks, hybrid devices are an attractive alternative to purchasing both a notebook and a tablet, providing the power and capability of a notebook when needed, with the portability and ease of use in a tablet.
So, is it possible to have the best of both worlds in a new Apple product– OS X running Mac apps, and iOS running iPad apps? Probably. Is it a good idea whose time has come? That’s the real question. What do you think? Would you buy a hybrid Mac iPad?