Apple makes a lot of money selling touchscreen tablets, smartphones, and portable media devices. In fact, the company now makes more money from iOS products than it does from pricey laptop and desktop computers running OS X.

So when you look at the latest versions of OS X which offer support for full-screen apps and gesture-based controls, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the company could merge OS X and iOS one day and launch notebooks or desktop computers with touchscreen displays, or maybe even convertible tablet-style notebooks.

But if Apple CEO Tim Cook’s comments during yesterday’s earnings call are anything to go by, you shouldn’t hold your breath.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga

Microsoft Windows 8 will run on notebooks, tablets, and other devices — and Intel and Microsoft are both encouraging PC makers to release products that blur the lines. That includes ultrabooks with touchscreen displays and convertible models that can be used a a notebook or a tablet.

But Tim Cook says there are trade-offs involved in that sort of hybrid device and that “you can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user.”

Microsoft’s head of corporate communications responded that the appropriate comparison is a toaster/oven… a device that’s rather popular.

The different approaches shouldn’t surprise anyone that’s been watching the two companies for a long time. While the iPad is the most successful tablet device to date, Microsoft has been making software for tablets for well over a decade.

Some of the earliest tablets were convertibles, and you can still find a number of Windows 7 computers with screens that can be folded down over the keyboard and used in tablet mode.

Those early tablet designs tend to be expensive though, and require high-end hardware including active digitizers and digital pens to work properly. Windows 8 could address that issue by offering a much more touch-friendly Metro style user interface so that PC makers can add touch capabilities to any device simply by adding a capacitive touch panel.

It’s likely a number of factors prevented convertible tablets from taking over the market years ago. High prices, inadequate software, and reliance on a digital pen that’s easy to lose or misplace could have all played a role. But the biggest difference between the convertibles of yesteryear and the touchscreen Windows devices expected to hit the streets later this year is that Microsoft, Intel, and many hardware partners appear ready to go all in.

I suspect we’ll see a bigger push for Windows tablets in 2012 and 2013 than we’ve ever seen before, as Microsoft and big name PC makers try to make sure we don’t actually enter a “post PC” world. That means you’ll likely see touch-capable devices from most major PC vendors and they probably won’t be cost much more than non-touch devices.

On the other hand, I’m still not sold on the Metro style user interface for traditional PC tasks. It often takes more clicks to find an app using the new Windows Start Screen than with a good old fashioned start menu. Maybe it just takes some getting used to — I remember being disenchanted with the Windows XP user interface when it replaced Windows 98.

As for Apple… company executives have a habit of saying they’re not going to release products… right up until the moment they do. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we do see a touchscreen notebook or a hybrid tablet-style notebook from Apple one day. But I would be surprised if that day to come anytime this year.

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5 replies on “Apple won’t be launching converged tablets, notebooks… yet”

  1. i think whatever the ceo blabla is ….. apple got one thing right since it took over the concepts learned at palo alto …. the mainstream user of computers, especially at home, does not want to learn computing and is not the least interested in learning to know the real powers of modern computing devices. these are the 60 to 80 % of customers where easy going with a minimum of productive functionality paired with a high potential of personal communication and content consumation is counting at all and not computing power or flexability to say the least. these people go for visuals … and apple is satisfying this best. it is that simple

  2. “As for Apple… company executives have a habit of saying they’re not going to release products…”

    So true. There was Steve Jobs in an email saying, “the only thing tablets are good for is reading on the john.”

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if we do see a touchscreen notebook or a hybrid tablet-style notebook from Apple one day.”

    Apple hasn’t changed their iPad bluetooth keyboard dock since it first came out with the iPad 1. There are several third party keyboard/cases for iPad. Apple could do a lot more in this area, approaching a hybrid device from the tablet side, like the ASUS transformer.

    As far as making Macs with separate screens and keyboards, I don’t think it’s worth it for Apple to do that. Another recent quote from Tim Cook.

    “Just two years after we shipped the initial iPad, we’ve sold 67 million. To put that in some context, it took us 24 years to sell that many Macs, and five years for that many iPods, and over three years for that many iPhones, and we were extremely happy with the trajectory on all of those products.”

    In terms of bang for the buck, expanding the iPad line makes more sense to me than making radical changes in the Mac line.

  3. Apple never innovates. They wait till the 3rd or 4th generation before they offer a product and steal as much tech as possible.  And try to freeze the tech afterwards.

  4.   I
    think the converged or hybrid Apple tablet will look like the Lenovo hybrid tablet
    that was the darling of CES for 2 consecutive years.  The iPad will be
    the detachable screen and a Mac will be the base.  The key will be that both parts
    will have an “iCloud cache” in the form of SSDs embedded in each device
    that will synchronize with each other.  Or a shared drive can
    simply be partitioned on each device, and all items in the shared drives
    can be synched.  The shared drive could also include the user’s context
    at the time of handoff from one device to the other.

    The problem Lenovo had was that Android and Windows are 2 OSs from
    different companies.  Lenovo didn’t own either OS, so getting them to work together and with the hardwae is a herculean task and extremely difficult.  Since Apple controls both iOS and OSX as well as the devices’ hardware design, the teams involved can
    work very closely together to achieve as seamless a handoff as possible.Many of the elements to this scenario are already present, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple announced such a product if it looked like the hybrids were taking off.

    1. If both devices were continuously connected to the Internet, the synchronizaton could occur continuously in real time, saving the end user the bother of having to wait for a complete sync. 

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