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Apple Not Challenging the Hybrid Ultrabook could be a Big Mistake

1 - Apple Not Challenging the Hybrid Ultrabook could be a Big Mistake
During Apple's Q2 financial conference call last week, Tim Cook dished out one of the loopiest lines that I've ever heard from an Apple executive. When asked if Apple would compete with the coming Wintel hybrid Ultrabook that will double as a tablet, Cook stated that "You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user." This report takes a closer look at that statement to show you where the facts are and where the shtick begins. At the end of the day, Apple has left the door wide open for the hybrid Wintel Ultrabook-tablet to enter the market unchallenged that's big enough for a fleet of war ships to enter – and they will.  


Wintel's Haswell Based 2013 Hybrid Ultrabooks will deliver a Powerful Punch  


2 - Some of the upcoming Ultrabook Features with Haswell CPU 2013


In 2013, the Ultrabook will be powered by Intel's advanced processor called Haswell. Some of what we know from various keynote slides and notes is that it will be the first 22nm processor for notebooks on the market and according to Intel, will have the power to reinvent the notebook.


In our cover graphic you're able to see one of Intel's Ultrabook slides illustrating that next generation interfaces will also be supporting voice commands and hand gesturing controls which was recently highlighted in a Microsoft patent. According to Intel's secondary slide above, Haswell based Ultrabooks will support multiple operating systems. Some of the leading candidates include Windows 8 with Metro, Google's Android and/or Chrome, HP's WebOS and Linux.


Intel also claims Ultrabooks will offer all day battery life and always on connectivity. Obviously this means that LTE will be baked right into next generation Ultrabooks. In January 2011 Intel's acquisition of Infineon was completed. At the time, Intel stated that Infineon Technologies AG Wireless Solutions (WLS) business was "a leading provider of cellular platforms to top-tier global phone makers, and part of Intel's strategy to accelerate always-connected computing platforms that span a variety of device and market segments, including laptops, cars, smart phones, tablets and smart TVs." Intel also acquired SySDSoft to further support their always-connected strategy that is likely to appear in their 2013 Haswell based Ultrabooks. This could translate into eliminating the added cost for the cellular chipset. Today, devices like Apple's iPad Wi-Fi + 4G add a premium of about $120 for that chipset that gives you cellular-data connectivity. Such a move by Intel would provide their Ultrabook OEMs with a pricing advantage against the iPad. Whether Intel intends to play that card is yet to be determined.


One of the most interesting features behind the Haswell based hybrid Ultrabook-Tablet is that it's designed to be a low powered notebook or tablet while you're on the go and yet enable the user to connect their Ultrabook into a next generation docking station at work or at home and be able to crank the power up to that of a full blown desktop. In theory, it'll be the ultimate all-in-one computer. As Intel's marketing puts it: It's a tablet when you need it. It's a PC when you want it: All Day – Every Day.


If Wintel delivers this savory beast, then I think that they'll have a winner. But Apple's Tim Cook rained on that parade last week. It reminded me of Wintel raining on the iPad's parade. Wintel paid a heavy price for that. Is Apple's reluctance to play in this market a wise move or a potential blunder? Let's take a closer look at what Tim Cook said in the totality of the conference call.


Tim Cook's facts and Shtick


During Apple's Q2 financial conference's Q&A session, Tim Cook honestly talked about supply constraints. Cook stated that "On iPad, worldwide, we're supply constrained on the new iPad, both coming out of last quarter. And to give you a current view, we're still supply constrained on the new iPad. Demand has been incredibly robust, and we are selling them as fast as we can make them, as Peter mentioned earlier."


It specifically boils down to Retina display related supply constraints. That's a key factor in understanding Apple's reluctance in playing in the hybrid notebook-tablet category. Tim Cook stated that "we're not going to that party. Others might. Others might from a defensive point of view, particularly. But we're going to play in both." The context being that Apple will continue to sell iPads and MacBooks but not a hybrid.


In perspective, Tim Cook made it abundantly clear that Apple couldn't find enough supply of displays for the new iPad that's currently experiencing out of control demand. So just on a purely logistical level, just the thought of adding a multi-touch Retina display to a MacBook Air would create a daunting supply nightmare. Especially if the MacBook Air display doesn't match the size of the iPad. Then you're opening an impossible scenario for touch-related Retina displays that would over burden Apple's current suppliers. So this marketing shtick about not wanting to play in the hybrid notebook-tablet market is just that, shtick. It's really a matter of Apple not being able to conceivably retain enough supply to even contemplate such a hybrid at this time.


Let's face it; Apple could afford to pass on the hybrid Ultrabook market because they have the number one selling tablet in the market today. Their priority, and rightfully so, is to put all their wood behind this product to hopefully keep it number one. They could afford to allow the hybrid Ultrabook to enter the market unchallenged and play a waiting game. If this category takes off to a point where it's challenging iPad sales, Apple will "magically" introduce such a hybrid. If the hybrid Ultrabook fails, Cook looks like a visionary. It's a calculated gamble in a high stakes game.


At the End of the Day


At the end of the day, Apple has left the door wide open for Wintel's hybrid Ultrabook-Tablet to storm the market unchallenged. They have good reason; they won't compromise the iPad's success to play with a yet unproven category. And, as we've shown, the display factor would jeopardize the iPad's supply and that's not a point even to be considered. It's not that Apple hasn't thought of a hybrid unit of sorts, because they have a granted patent to prove that they have.


For Apple, the timing is all wrong and they'll defend their insanely popular iPad first and foremost and it's the right move for Apple. But that's a far cry from the Ultrabook being an overly compromised product that Tim Cook alluded to. His indirect analogy of a hybrid Ultrabook being a mismatch likened to mixing a toaster and a refrigerator was just the loopiest lines that I've ever heard from an Apple executive.


When Steve Jobs was around, marketing shtick was simply discounted as being a part of his reality distortion field. Macites knew differently. We loved Steve's embellishments because he was Steve, the guy behind the original Mac, the David who took on the Goliath Wintel and was victorious. We expected Steve to do that. It was his trademark. But with Tim Cook, his view of a hybrid notebook just came across as disingenuous marketing mumbo jumbo.


At the end of the day, we get it: Apple won't be playing in this new hybrid notebook category. But will it come back to haunt Apple? In my view, Wintel has finally found a chink in Apple's armour and their going to drive a bloody freight train right through it. If Wintel ever had an opportunity for an all-out counter attack, they have finally found their entry point. Without a doubt: Interesting times lay ahead.


3 - Ultrabook - The Attributes of a Tablet, The Performance of a PC - No Compromise




Oh you will, Marc, over the next 2 years.

Sorry, I just don't see this hybrid as a competitor.

@hammer. Huh? You're not getting it. The Ultrabook with haswell (2013)has a special mechanism in the processor. It will run with half the power (or whatever percentage) to keep it cool so that you'll have power to surf and do simple work, including using Word etc while on the go. When you plug it into their next generation docking station with a cooling station built in, the processor will crank up to full desktop power. You'll be connecting it to an independent display, not a computer tower. The 2013 Ultrabook will be able to be your notebook and desktop-like computer when you need it - by the Ultrabook powering up to full capacity.

Who said anything about a DVD? Ultrabooks today don't have optical drive so for sure the next generational unit won't. There's nothing here to worry about it being speculative. This isn't video glasses or something that's strange. But your right hammer, competition is good for everyone. That's the hope for this. I may wait 6 months to see Wintel work out the first bugs, but if they deliver, I'm on board.

Let us look at the technical shortcomings: full 'computer' when docked. That means keyboard, more memory, more storage and perhaps more processors. So now we are used to the computer-based generation of data. Unplug - you loose all that, yet your files are all still there. How do you interact with them without the keyboard, storage (and how do you work this split storage method?), processing power...and you are now limited to consumption? How many people are going to enjoy that? Oh wait you say it'll have a portable keyboard? And a portable hard drive and a portable DVD? Hmm. So much for super easy portability.

Besides, none of this stuff is out yet so speculation to this level is just 'entertainment' not fact-based. It is all marketing hype. We'll see what happens. And if it is good? Great! Competition drives the market, and lets people find the devices that work for them.

Drew, I think it could take a good two to three years before the Haswell advantage works its way through the market to affect Apple meaningfully.

You're obviously an Apple fan and your views reflect that on every count. You talk of convertibles of yesteryear and yes, sometimes products are too ahead of their time to be affective, like the Newton vs the iPod touch or iPhone. So comparisons to yesteryear goes two ways.

There's 50% of the market that are professionals, including University students, who need a keyboard and more powerful apps to work with that are not available today on iPads. So I don't believe your truck position at all. That's a very European point of view.

Yes Drew, I believe the Ultrabook will match and beat the MacBook Air hands down and with the added convertible display I'll get a tablet for the same price as your pad. I'll get 10x the storage and use it as my desktop in the evening.

Drew, not only do I believe that the haswell hybrid notebook will beat Apple at their own game, I believe that Apple's days of having no competition are close to an end. Over the next three to four years Apple will have lost its shine. They had their run. Steve Jobs is gone. Apple was in the cellar for well over a decade and that's where they're headed again.

And by the way, I own an iPad. It's nice only because anything Android sucks. But Microsoft's Metro touch UI will match iOS and better it. WebOS will be back and it has a very cool UI. Even RIM will be back with a new UI that was shown this week. Once there's even one serious contender (Metro), Window users who originally bought an iPad will upgrade to a Wintel tablet over time. You don't get the fact that PC'ers are only temporarily parked in Apple's camp and will leave it once there's a Wintel alternative. Did Notebook or iMac sales ever come close to matching the iPad or iPhone? No. Did that prized halo affect ever come to be? No. PC'ers had no where to go but Apple for a decent tablet. Once there's a viable Wintel alternative (Hawell/Metro), Apple will soon find out that their lead was temporary all along.Oh how we'll pick your bones when that day arrives.

Convertible laptops have been around for years. The difference will be (not here yet!) Windows 8 and lighter hardware. Maybe one of the Wintel camp will be able to build a touchscreen Ultrabook convertible (TUC?) that weighs less than 2 lbs. Maybe.

But the iPad will always be lighter. It will always be more suited for the touch UI. Siri will improve and voice input will make keyboards practically obsolete, except for those who need to enter large amounts of specialized data & keyboard characters not suited for voice input.

It's clear that Apple believes that traditional computers, including laptops, are becoming "trucks". 10-20% of consumers will need them and Apple will continue to make the best. But 80-90% of consumers will be using smartphones & tablets before this decade ends. Apple will also continue to make the best of these.

The Wintel crowd does not build either the best tablets or laptops. Do you really think hybridizing the two products will create a superior result?

Forget the hybrid. Let's revisit this article a year from now and see if they can make any headway on the tablet or laptop fronts individually. Let them compete with the iPad and MB Air first before attempting to launch a whole new category.

I think one of the best things Apple could produce is a Hybrid laptop iOS device. It should be called iBook (using a name they already own) an it should be a dual touch screen fold up laptop. Both screens should be touch screens. It should have dual processors once for MAC OS and one for iOS. The device in the MAC mode would have a touch screen keyboard with a track pad on one side and the other side would have the MAC OS. It could also be operated as an iOS device on either screen, running two iOS programs at a time on two screens or spread across both screens for a large screen experience running one iOS App. It could also be used as a large MAC screen when opened flat when used with a wireless keyboard. You could hold it like a book for some Apps or like a Laptop or open flat as a large screen iPad or large screen MAC with an external keyboard.

Chano, I think that Cook put Apple in a position that if they should turn around with a hybrid in the future, it'll make Cook look like a copycat. That could come back to haunt Cook's cred. Secondly, there are all kind of crazy peripherals out for the iPad to add a keyboard and they look so stupid. But companies keep making them because there's a market for it. For what? To create a hybrid. But in Apple's case, it's different because you can't use Word on OS X or the like.

Cannabilize Wintel notebooks? The Ultrabook is a notebook so how could it cannabilize it? If anything it enhances and advances a notebook. Cannabilization isn't in the equation for Wintel notebooks.

Funny thing with Apple fans is that you rely on Apple to tell you what is right for you and what isn't. Why do you quote their positions as if it were a bible or something? I don't get that.

Maybe wintel will goof again, but this time I think they've got it right if they keep the design light, the converting mechanism right so that it's easy to go from notebook to tablet fast. For simple reading, surfing and email, you can't go wrong. Who needs 10,000 apps. I only use 20 as most adults that I know. Who really wants to spend $900 if they had a choice for a hybrid?

I am an iPad (and Mac) user. After pairing the iPad to a BT keyboard and using a few productivity apps, I'm convinced touch and laptops are a natural fit: the distance between keyboard and touchscreen is perfect to be useful for LoFi gestured commands alongside typing and HiFi trackpad/mouse/nub ones. So it's not just about Ultrabooks providing a folded screen tablet mode but an enhanced desktop mode, too. Microsoft is tailoring Windows to cover for that. Not quite sure where OS X stands (not a Lion user, as I need Rosetta).

Tom said "Don't forget that Intel also pushed the MID. And how did that go?" Well Tom, Apple Introduced the Cube and a Ghetto Blaster. How did they go? Companies have hit and misses.

The article is about a notebook tablet hybrid, not about desktops, Tom. You're all over the place :)

Apple likes to squeeze it's base for buying more products. I'd love to have a Macbook Air iPad combination. But like Timmy said, they will make a notebook and ipad and never the two = squeezing it's base to spend more money. To each his own.

Your explanation of the situation is good but, what does it matter?
There is no vulnerability.
If the hybrid takes off (unlikely due to schizoid OS policy), Apple will zoom in with its merged iOS/OSX which is far ahead, far superior and a known quantity already.
What is more, adding full keyboard and mouse capabilities to the iPad would make hybridisation a waste of time.
The Wintel hybrid strategy will hurt them deeply because it will cannibalise other lines like laptops and desktops.
This has been tried before by the Wintel camp. It did not work.
So outing the same hybrid factor, in a new form will only convince the compulsive buyers out to play imo.

Apple doesn't comment on unreleased products.

On the verge of Apple putting Ivy Bridge into their Mac lineup, and very likely dropping the DVD drive from the MacBook range it seems a little overly skeptical?

Not many products have got close to the MacBook Air - sheer logistical, component pricing an manufacturing issues - the vertically integrated approach (eg The manufacturing capabilities for unibodies, batteries, and now AX chips). and now the MacBook Pros are about to adopt a sleeker design.

Don't forget that Intel also pushed the MID. And how did that go? Well, a few years later a certain companies has 3/4 of the profit in the smartphone business and even more in the tablet business. Apple seems much more happy to cannibalize current lines than others - and Cook has mentioned that I believe (could have been Jobs also). Prime example - the iPhone and the iPod.

There have already been iMac windows rivals, with windows 7 on - why does windows 8 suddenly swing it?
It's true Microsoft look more intent on betting the game on windows 8's two UI (touch metro style and win 7 style underneath). We'll see - the fact remains that not many touch PCs or all in one's have been sold to date. you have to get past the physical fact that having your arm up all the time is tiring. That's not to say Apple couldn't overlay a multitouch layer.
Beyond touch - Doesn't Apple already make he best Ultrabook?
They've skipped cellular on Macs, but then they've also started pushing LTE on iPads now the chipsets are progressing, and Apple's efforts to actually make simplified plans for iPhones and iPads was when introduced a definite step forward.

@ James. Yes of course, it remains to be seen. However, that's the point. Microsoft is trying to catch up and reinvented their OS to be both touch and mouse driven depending on how you use it. In notebook format you could call up Windows 8 and in touch mode when the notebook is easily converted to be a tablet you get an interface that's appropriate.

Apple is trying to merge the two OS's to that same degree by pushing mail and various other features so that there's a commonality to both OS's.

Microsoft appears to have begun to reinvent themselves as Apple did in 1997. Microsoft tried to put lipstick on a pig for years but it failed. This time around, the team is younger, more energetic and have some really great ideas. But as you said James, it remains to be seen.

iPads use iOS, Macs use OS-X. Different apps, different interfaces, different file systems. To me a Mac hybrid would be cramming two dissimilar products together.

It may make more sense for a Windows product, since Windows 8 is trying to converge the desktop and tablet interfaces, but it remains to be seen if Microsoft's approach will work as well as Apple's.

Luis, the business world is fluid. Apple had an iPad and didn't need a low powered netbook. But this is a different kettle of fish. The 2013 Haswell Ultrabook is going to be a cutting edge extremely powerful notebook. Apple will likely use Haswell too, but force people to also buy an iPad. By using a touch display on the Ultrabook, wintel users will get Windows 8 for work and Metro UI for casual surfing and reading with the same display.

A lot of Wintelers bought the iPad. When these wintelers go to upgrade their notebooks, the won't buy Apple, they'll buy the Ultrabook. Anyways, could it challenge Apple? I think there's a point here that's right. Wintel could flop, but they're now the underdog that Apple was in 1997. Things and market leaders change. It's just the way it goes.

@ JK,

That's like saying to Apple in 2007, didn't Microsoft try a tablet and it failed? The advancements in today's computer systems make it right for this time. The duo dock was cute but underpowered to say the least. I agree that Apple opting out of this segment for good reasons mind you) is a potential door opener for Wintel. It's about time Apple was challenged. It's good for the market.

"I'm as proud of the products that we have not done as the ones we have done." -- Steve Jobs

Usually, it is hard to remember that Apple had released a non-screen mp3 player (the shuffle) against all "common sense" thinking...
Also, that Apple did not released a netbook, either...

And last, that it became the most valued company while doing this!

Didn't Apple try something akin to this back in the day- the PowerBook Duo and Duo dock? It was pretty much a flop. I'll be curious to see if this product can actually deliver on all their claims.

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