The tide of the tablet market is turning. Android vendors have had a couple of years at trying to copy the iPad, and having failed, Apple’s rivals have sought new ways to compete with the Cupertino company’s market-leading device. As well as a glut of smaller tablets (to which Apple has also covered with the iPad mini), we’re also seeing a deluge of so-called “hybrid” devices – those that function both as a tablet and a notebook. The majority seem to be running on a variant of Windows 8, and due to the fledgling nature of Microsoft’s new OS, none of these tablet-notebooks have really gotten going as yet, but with so many of them set to hit the retail market this Fall, will Apple need an answer of its own?
At the moment, if you want a tablet from Apple, you get yourself an iPad, and if you want a notebook, you get a MacBook. This is a simple enough format for most to comprehend, but with the fruit company seemingly having caved to pressure in bringing the smaller slate which some swore would never would come, will the multitude of hybrid tablets force Apple to make a similar move.
Looking at it from one perspective, Apple could certainly use a device to cover all eventualities. The iPad is good for what it does – run App Store apps – but much like the Microsoft Surface RT, for example, it suffers from lack of compatibility with your “proper” apps found on OS X.
While Microsoft absolutely needs the Surface Pro in order to sell the hybrid idea to the masses, Apple may not do. Why? Well, the answer is simple. Apple has already begun amalgamating both of its primary operating systems, iOS and OS X. Mountain Lion dropped in the summer, bringing Game Center, Notification Center, and a host of other features we’d become acquainted with on the iPad. By doing this, Apple has blurred the distinctive line between the two, and is in a slightly stronger position to deem the iPad a true “post-PC” device.
Of course, like the Surface RT, the iPad cannot handle OS X apps, which is always going to bring its limitations. In its current form, one cannot deem the iPad substantial enough to replace, say, a MacBook Air, because it simply doesn’t have the power, and all the key apps such as Garageband, Lightroom and Final Cut are either watered-down, or non-existent.
With all said and done, whether Apple really needs its own hybrid depends largely on the success of those before it. Tim Cook and Co. can certainly continue pushing the idea of the iPad as an apt PC substitute for many, but if consumers take the idea of a hybrid seriously, and in turn enjoy using fully-powered apps on slabs like the Surface Pro, Apple will have no choice but to up its game.
Will that happen? I am not so sure. Considering how much the iPad has improved in just over two-and-a-half years, I think Apple’s tablet dominance, wealth of apps, and general market presence will help it maintain a similar position as it currently finds itself in. Sure, the Surface Pro – and other hybrids – will still sell, but I firmly believe they’re niche, as opposed to revolutionary, so no; Apple doesn’t need it’s own offering in order to hold its ground.
Would you agree, or do you feel Apple does in fact need an answer to the growing number of hybrids? Please share your thoughts and opinions via the usual mediums below.