Technalysis Research
Previous Blogs

May 22, 2014
Insider Extra: SanDisk: The Many Faces of Flash

May 20, 2014
The Technological Divining Rod

May 13, 2014
Computing in the Cloud

May 6, 2014
Device Usage a Question of Degree

April 29, 2014
The Next Smartphone Battleground: Durability

April 22, 2014
BYOD: A Work in Progress

April 18, 2014
Insider Extra: AMD Back in the Groove

April 15, 2014
The Mobility Myth

April 9, 2014
BYOD Dilemma: Devices vs. Data

April 8, 2014
Insider Extra: Qualcomm's Evolving Story

April 1, 2014
A Wearables Forecast

March 25, 2014
Measuring Success in Wearables? It's Thousands of Thousands

March 24, 2014
Insider Extra: Intel Strategy Moves Forward

March 18, 2014
IOT: Islands of Isolated Things?

March 11, 2014
Wearables Cautionary Tale

March 4, 2014
The New Platform Battle

February 25, 2014
Watch What Happens

February 18, 2014
Talkin' 'bout Touchpads

February 11, 2014
The MultiOS Conundrum

February 4, 2014
Computing Redefined

January 28, 2014
The Apple Problem

January 21, 2014
The 2-in-1s People Might Want

January 14, 2014
The Post Tablet Era

January 7, 2014
The Innovation Asymptote

December 31, 2013
Top 5 2014 Predictions

December 17, 2013
Holiday Shoppers Gifting Themselves

December 10, 2013
Companion Apps

December 3, 2013
Aisle Check

TECHnalysis Research Blog

May 27, 2014
Surface Pro 3: The Future of PCs?

I attended the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 launch in New York last week and it got me thinking. After spending some time with the device and contemplating its potential impact, I realized it was time to take a fresh look at 2-in-1s, hybrids, detachables or whatever name you prefer to give to these combo devices.

In many ways, the Surface Pro 3 is one of the best examples of a 2-in-1 device that I’ve seen. With a 12” high-resolution screen, a range of powerful Intel Core series CPUs, fast SSD storage and a backlit, removable keyboard with a large, comfy trackpad, it’s got all the features people want in a PC. At the same time, the screen’s 3:2 aspect ratio, multipoint touch, infinitely variable hinge and the included stylus all make it a powerful tablet.

But looking at how Microsoft has evolved the Surface from its original “let’s try to create an alternative to the iPad” strategy, the Surface Pro 3 is clearly much more PC-like than it is tablet-like. In fact, I’d argue it’s about 80-90% PC and only 10-20% tablet. Though that may not sound ideal, in actual practice that ratio works well because that’s how the vast majority of people use 2-in-1 devices anyway.

In fact, the ratio for most people who own or use these types of devices is probably in the 95% range of PC usage vs. tablet-style usage. I use Dell’s XPS12 convertible PC with the rotating screen as my main machine every day, for example, and I only occasionally use it in a tablet-like mode. It is handy to have that capability on those rare occasions when, for example, I want to flip the screen over and show a presentation to someone in front of me or some other application like that, but again, that’s not typical. In that regard, my estimate of Surface’s 10-15% tablet usage is actually much higher than most.

Even still, I highly doubt that most people who buy and use 2-in-1s no longer buy and/or use standalone tablets. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that people who own 2-in-1s are more likely to own a separate standalone tablet than people with regular notebooks. The buyers for 2-in-1s are likely to be more sophisticated users who want a wide range of computing options and are willing (and able) to buy multiple devices to fit those needs.

There’s an even bigger issue at stake, however, and it has to do with how these devices are being positioned. Surface Pro 3 is being positioned primarily as a tablet—why else would they not bundle a keyboard with it?—and 2-in-1s are positioned as being half PC and half tablet. Neither of these is really accurate, though. In both cases, I believe we’re really looking at the future of the notebook PC.

The problem, of course, is that nobody really wants to talk about PCs now because the market is declining and PCs are just not sexy anymore. It’s tablets that are sexy now, so somehow everything needs to be positioned in the supposed glow of the tablet aura.

That’s a big mistake from my perspective, however, because I don’t see tablets as the savior of computing. Apparently, I’m not the only one either, because growth in the tablet market has started to peak, and I suspect it won’t be long before it starts to decline a bit (or, at the very least, growth grinds to a halt).

Don’t get me wrong. I love tablets and use them all the time. However, I also recognize their limitations and continue to believe they are a great supplementary device to a PC and a smartphone.

In this light, I’d argue that the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and other 2-in-1s are really more like a 1+ device: they take the 1 device (a PC in my argument) and evolve it into a better, more advanced version of itself. Or, to put it another way, they represent the future of PCs.

Here's a link to the original column:

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