Threatened by iPad, PCs start to look like tablets

Jul 19, 2011 By PETER SVENSSON , AP Technology Writer
In this product image provided by Acer Inc., the Acer Iconia laptop is displayed. The Iconia, a Windows laptop that looks like any other when the lid is down. When you open it, you'll find two touch-sensitive screens and no keyboard, similar to a tablet computer. To type, you bring up a virtual keyboard on the lower screen. If you're not using the keyboard, Web pages can flow from the top screen to the bottom one.(AP Photo/Acer Inc.)

The response by computer makers to the iPad stealing sales from them: Make their PCs more like iPads.

The "if you can't beat `em, join `em" strategy" is prompting a wave of experimentation with the design of the laptop, which has been largely unchanged for two decades. Touch-sensitive screens and the use of Google's system for are two ways the PC industry is adapting.

About 50 million tablets are expected to be sold this year, and that could double to as many as 100 million next year. worldwide grew just over 2 percent in the second quarter, short of what research firms IDC and Gartner had expected. The popularity of tablet computers was one of the main reasons.

One way PC makers are countering the threat is with iPad-style tablets running Android, but these haven't seen wide success so far. And in trying to emulate the iPad, they're competing with not just Apple, but also with phone makers such as Motorola Inc., which are launching their own tablets.

So PC makers are offering hybrids that try to offer the best of both worlds. Some are tablet-like devices that come with keyboards, which the iPad doesn't have. Others are PC-like, combining the tablet's signature touch-screen with the ability to run heavy-duty programs for photo editing and design.

Witness the Acer Iconia, a Windows laptop that looks like any other when the lid is down. When you open it, you'll find two touch-sensitive screens and no keyboard, similar to a . To type, you bring up a on the lower screen. If you're not using the keyboard, Web pages can flow from the top screen to the bottom one.

Another iPad-like laptop is the Dell Inspiron Duo. Its screen can be flipped around to face outward when the lid is closed. When folded that way, it works like a tablet.

Lenovo Group also sells a Windows laptop with a screen that can be detached from the keyboard to function as an Android tablet.

"We should learn some things from tablets," such as the iPad's user-friendly interface and the ease of installing software from outside parties, said Yang Yuanquing, the CEO of Lenovo, the world's fourth-largest maker of PCs.

Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's largest maker of personal computers, is giving its PCs the ability to run applications written for its webOS software, which runs on smartphones and a tablet, the TouchPad.

In their experimentation, PC makers are reviving designs haven't been very successful in their previous incarnations. The laptop with a screen that detaches to become a tablet is an idea that dates to 2002, when a flurry of tablet computers debuted along with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Tablet Edition.

This earlier generation of tablet PCs didn't catch on because they were expensive and too heavy for comfortable use in tablet mode. "Windows Tablet Edition" wasn't much different from regular Windows, and it wasn't fully adapted for tablet use. Microsoft added more touch-oriented features when it released Windows 7 in 2009.

Even with the improvements in Windows, however, the PC faces hurdles in mimicking the tablet's design.

Windows isn't a very friendly operating system for tablets, partly because it needs Intel-style processors to run on. These chips drain batteries much faster than the cellphone-style chips used in the iPad, with a core designed by ARM Holdings PLC. ARM chips can save power by turning off parts of themselves when they're not in use, among other tricks.

"A lot of what makes the iPad an iPad is the long battery life," technology analyst Rob Enderle said.

Windows-based PCs and tablet computers that use Intel chips need bigger batteries, which make the devices heavier. Even then, the batteries don't last as long as the iPad's. The Dell Inspiron Duo weighs 3.4 pounds, or two and a half times the weight of the iPad. It has four hours of battery life, compared with 10 on the iPad.

Microsoft is hard at work developing a version of Windows that will run on ARM chips, and it's expected to be ready next year. That means the next generation of laptops could match the iPad for weight and battery life.

But while waiting for the new software, PC makers are in an uncomfortable situation. The new software might be what they need, but in the meantime, they have to try other means to distract consumers from the , such as borrowing tablet features. These experiments with laptop-tablet hybrids are unlikely to be as important as the advent of the new system, currently dubbed Windows 8. But something might stick, providing a model for the future of PCs.

"Right now the PC industry is fighting kind of a holding action," Enderle said.

Explore further: Apple computer sells for record $905K in NY

More information:
Dell Inspiron Duo: http://www.dell.com/us/p/inspiron-duo/pd

Acer Iconia: http://us.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/iconia-home

Asus Eee Slate: http://bit.ly/oZTTPv

2.7 /5 (7 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Review: Eee Pad tablet transforms into laptop

May 18, 2011

(AP) -- The tablet computers that compete with the iPad have mostly been uninspiring. The Eee Pad Transformer stands out with a design that isn't just copied from the iPad: It's a tablet that turns into a ...

Tablets, smartbooks aim to fill PC-phone gap

Feb 17, 2010

(AP) -- If you've got a car and a bicycle, do you need a motorcycle too? Wireless carriers are betting that you do. They're making a big push this year for the motorcycles of the gadget world: devices that ...

One Laptop Per Child's next move: the $100 tablet

May 27, 2010

(AP) -- The nonprofit organization that has tried for years to produce a sub-$100 laptop for children in the world's poorest places is throwing in the towel on that idea - and jumping on the tablet bandwagon.

Recommended for you

Apple computer sells for record $905K in NY

7 hours ago

One of the first Apple computers ever built has sold in New York for $905,000, leading Bonhams auction house to declare it the world's most expensive computer relic.

Review: Better cameras, less glare in iPad Air 2

Oct 22, 2014

If I've seen you taking photos with a tablet computer, I've probably made fun of you (though maybe not to your face, depending on how big you are). I'm old school: I much prefer looking through the viewfinder ...

Samsung phones cleared for US government use

Oct 21, 2014

Samsung Electronics Co. said Tuesday some of its Galaxy mobile devices were approved by the National Security Agency for use with classified U.S. government networks and data, a boost to the company's efforts to expand in ...

User comments : 15

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (6) Jul 19, 2011
Typing on a virtual keyboard is a nearly impossible feat.

Laptops and desktops aren't in any way threatened by tablets.

But tablets will soon be threatened by projection glasses.
ryggesogn2
2.1 / 5 (7) Jul 19, 2011
Where is the 'progressive' demand to force Apple to stop monopolizing the market and play fair?
Daein
not rated yet Jul 19, 2011
I had this idea a long LONG time ago. The problem is two screens of laptop size are cost prohibitive. I used to think that virtual keyboards would stop devices like this from taking off, but the recent crop of tablets has proven me wrong. Even I have begun to get used to virtual keyboards on devices like the iPad and Driod phones.
canuckit
not rated yet Jul 19, 2011
Threatened by latops iPad tablets look like laptops.
SemiNerd
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 19, 2011
Typing on a virtual keyboard is a nearly impossible feat.

Laptops and desktops aren't in any way threatened by tablets.

But tablets will soon be threatened by projection glasses.

I like typing on a virtual keyboard. Be sure that you don't generalize what may be true for yourself to others.
abhishekbt
5 / 5 (2) Jul 19, 2011
Windows isn't a very friendly OS... partly because it needs Intel-style processors to run on


Huh? Too strong statement my friend! What about the AMD processors? I myself used to have a WinXP PC with an AMD processor for over 3 years.
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (6) Jul 19, 2011
"Where is the 'progressive' demand to force Apple to stop monopolizing the market and play fair?" - RyggTard

Apple isn't a monopoly, or even a near monopoly.. TardBoy.

Apple is simply a company run by a megalomaniac who has a good sense of design, and an abysmal capacity to communicate.

Fortunately for Apple, QuackTard Libertarian Quiche eaters love his iToys.
abhishekbt
not rated yet Jul 19, 2011
Windows isn't a very friendly OS... partly because it needs Intel-style processors to run on


Huh? Too strong statement my friend! What about the AMD processors? I myself used to have a WinXP PC with an AMD processor for over 3 years. Traded it for a laptop last year.
visual
1 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2011
@abhishekbt
Well, imagine that "Intel-style" is just the layman word for "x86"...
But I would not agree with the article even then. I _want_ a x86 tablet, nothing with ARM can run what I want to run on it. I have ARM in my cellphone already, and have no need for an over-sized version of that which even loses the ability to make phone calls.
Yes, my x86 tablet is bulkier and pricier than ARM cheapos, but can run real stuff. I am playing WoW, EVE Online, Dragon Age 2, Civ 5 (works especially good with pen input and no kayboard)... No way I'll ever settle for ARM's fart apps and Angry Birds, thank you very much.
And no, its not all just games too. It runs the real MS Office, Photoshop, Autocad, anything... It can play or encode all types of videos. It can easily use any printer, scanner, video camera, TV tuner or whatever other USB device you think of.
This will _never_ be the case for ARM, Win 8 still will not make the apps or drivers magically compatible with it.
sherriffwoody
5 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2011
Typing on a virtual keyboard is a nearly impossible feat.

Laptops and desktops aren't in any way threatened by tablets.

But tablets will soon be threatened by projection glasses.

I like typing on a virtual keyboard. Be sure that you don't generalize what may be true for yourself to others.

In general he is right. Typing on a real keyboard and using a real mouse is still faster and feels right. numerous studies have proven this. Are you telling us you can type faster on a piece of glass than a real keyboard? If so, maybe you are slow in the first place
J-n
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 21, 2011
Where is the 'progressive' demand to force Apple to stop monopolizing the market and play fair?


Fortunately there are market regulations and orginazations in place who's job it is (however woefully underfunded, and de-fanged they may be) to keep an eye on markets and make sure that monopolies are not created. They're not perfect, but much better than any system where these regulations were not in place.
poof
5 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2011
tablets are old news, i got this pen and paper, it lasts for months before i have to plug it in.
FunkyDude
1.7 / 5 (3) Jul 24, 2011
tablets are the future, but not without having a hardware keyboard to type on. Soft keyboards are a pain.
FrankHerbert
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 24, 2011
Then it's not a tablet... It's a laptop. ugg.
gwrede
1 / 5 (1) Jul 24, 2011
Typing on a virtual keyboard is a nearly impossible feat.

I like typing on a virtual keyboard. Be sure that you don't generalize what may be true for yourself to others.

Well, maybe you should learn to touch type. Then you could type looking at the text on the screen instead of your fingers, or even not looking at the computer at all. And your speed would be incredibly faster.

However, touch typing is impossible on a virtual keyboard. Hunters-and-peckers would not know the difference.