Technology trends come and go. Remember the desktop PC? There was a time when they ruled the technology landscape. Today most PCs sold are notebooks, including Apple’s Mac line which makes up about 70-percent of all Macs sold.
Other trends include the move to larger screens on smartphones. Apple was late to the party, of course, but the company does not seem to have lost anything by making larger phones mainstream. Apple doesn’t follow all the trends. Remember netbooks, the itty bitty $h!!ty underpowered and ultra cheap notebooks that no one uses any more? Apple didn’t make one but they’re back.
Same Thing, New Name
No one expects Apple to drop the Mac Pro, Mac mini, or desktop iMac line, despite the fact that the company sells more notebooks than all the desktop models combined. Each has a profitable niche, but it’s the notebook that’s mainstream as it provides decent power and capability with mobility and good battery life.
Where Apple is missing the boat is the trend toward hybrid devices, more typically represented by Microsoft’s hot selling Surface line; the Surface, Surface Pro, and Surface Book. All three have one thing in common. They’re hybrid devices with a detachable touchscreen; or, in the case of the non-Book, attachable keyboards to a touchscreen.
My view of the Surface Book is straightforward. It’s an expensive, powerful, MacBook Pro-like notebook with a detachable touchscreen. That’s the hybrid part. The Surface and Surface Pro are different. They’re both touchscreen notebooks with an attachable keyboard.
Keyboard-less, touchscreen hybrids running Windows are available for as low as $199 (sometimes lower with coupons, add-ons, or specials). Add a keyboard and what do you have? A netbook with a touchscreen. Most of these devices are similar and feature cheap plastic cases, inexpensive touchscreen with nominal resolution, very slow low end or entry-level CPUs, plenty of connectivity (WiFi, USB, etc) and Windows.
Where is Apple’s counter to the growing trend of touchscreen hybrid devices? Apple prefers that you buy two devices; a Mac notebook and an iPad. While hybrid devices run Windows and standard Windows applications, it’s the touchscreen interface that is the most anemic component (other than the CPU). While desktops with touchscreen have not exactly taken off– ever– a hybrid device with a touchscreen and the option of a keyboard is visually, mentally, and emotionally compelling. They all run Windows, Windows apps, and they act like a tablet.
What’s not to like? And why is Apple missing this new trend?
Generally speaking, it’s the user experience that’s not to like. As a notebook, touchscreens are used less and less often over time because, you know; arm, shoulder, tennis elbow, bursitis, and fatigue. But it’s compelling to have the touchscreen feature because, you know; just in case. As a tablet, most hybrid devices are clumsy at best; usually thicker and heavier than an iPad, and less likely to get used than an iPad which is built like a tank and used for years, often being handed down to other generations. iPads actually have more applications to choose from than Windows devices.
So far, Apple has resisted the trend to create hybrid devices, and instead has doubled down on the iPad’s capabilities; adding faster CPUs and improved graphics, and, more recently, even a professional level touchscreen and pencil. The company does not– until Apple does– seem to intend to blend iOS and OS X into a single hardware package with keyboard and touchscreen.
If Apple offered an entry-level hybrid device which has a detachable keyboard and touchscreen but ran OS X and iOS at the same time, would you buy one?