Intel and Microsoft’s secret weapon against Apple

“Intel and its partners are about to launch the biggest promotion of a new product category called Ultrabooks since the company’s Wi-Fi based Centrino launch early last decade,” Tim Bajarin writes for TIME Magazine. “And Microsoft is about to launch a major update to Windows called Windows 8 that introduces the new ‘Metro’ touch user interface. Together they are critical products for the future of each company individually.”

“For mainstream users who have had to lug around their rather bulky laptops for the last five years, they would be justified in asking Intel and the PC vendors ‘What took you so long?’ given that Apple has had their MacBook Air on the market for five years and defined what an Ultrabook should be,” Bajarin writes. “And with Windows 8 and Metro, Microsoft is also following an evolutionary path towards touch UI’s with its Metro based smart phones and soon to be Metro based tablets and PC’s. Again, consumers could ask Microsoft “What took you so long?” since Apple has had their touch UI on the iPhone for five years and on their iPads for two years.”

Bajarin writes, “I believe Intel and Microsoft have a secret weapon in the works that could win them kudos from the marketplace and be a key driver in getting users really interested in both companies again. The secret weapon is a new form factor often referred to as ‘hybrids’… But in the latter case, the design resembles more a slim laptop or Ultrabook-like casing, and the screen can be taken off and used as a tablet. I believe this latter design is the secret weapon that Microsoft and Intel can use against Apple and at least on paper, give Apple a run for its money, especially in business and enterprise. And to a lesser extent, it could be hot in some consumer segments where the keyboard is critical and users want a laptop-centered experience as well. This is where Apple’s current strategy can be challenged… If Apple applies their innovative design knowledge to create a hybrid that blends the iPad and the MacBook Air into a single device, it could have an impact on their ability to dominate this market.”

Read more in the full article – highly recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: Would you be interested in a “MacBook Air” that runs OS X, but whose HiDPI Retina display is actually an iOS-powered iPad when detached?

Surely, Apple has for years been thinking about and prototyping devices that explore the various intersections of Macintosh and iOS devices. We can’t wait to see what’s coming!

Related articles:
Microsoft needs Apple’s support if they want Windows 8 tablets to have a chance – March 21, 2012
The Guardian: Microsoft’s Windows 8 is confusing as hell; an appalling user experience – March 5, 2012
The 9 versions of Windows 8 show one of the key differences between Microsoft and Apple – March 2, 2012
Windows 8 tablet vs. Apple iPad running iOS 5: feature by feature (with video) – March 1, 2012
Needham: Apple Mac growth to continue six-year run of outpacing Windows PCs – February 28, 2012
Tim Cook: Apple the only company innovating in personal computers, and have been for some time – February 24, 2012
More good news for Apple: Microsoft previews Windows 8 (with video) – June 1, 2011


    1. “the design resembles more a slim laptop or Ultrabook-like casing, and the screen can be taken off and used as a tablet.”
      Is it the best at being a laptop? Well, no.
      Is it the best at being a tablet? Well, no, we had to compromise on each of those functions. There was not Any focus on making it do one thing better than anything else on market.

      Look how sparkly it is!

    1. The idea here is not that it comes with a keyboard (that already exists with the ASUS Transformer), but that it combines a laptop OS and Tablet OS as well; when it’s docked it runs full Windows “classic” interface with all the familiar software options, but when it’s undocked it runs the Metro interface with all the touch-optimized apps.

      It’s actually a pretty damn good idea. As MDN says, I’m sure it’s something Apple is considering. I’m sure they could do it relatively easily, since iOS and Mac OS share the same OSX base, and has historically been quite processor agnostic (so, easy to port one or the other to Intel/ARM).

      1. sounds a lot like the concept of an iMac like computer with its own processor, memory, and storage. An iPad would slip into the slot and become a desktop. Grab the screen and pull down to an angle and the iPad would switch over from the desktop OS to iOS.
        Nothing new about Intel/Microsoft secret weapon. Just they have no other route to go. The IGZO Retinia screen MacBook variant should cool that approach.

        1. You mean: Mac Mini? It ships without a screen. What if the new Mac Mini shipped self-contained in a keyboard/trackpad like the lower portion of the MacBook Air. Then a docked iPad would serve as the Mac Mini’s Retina display for OS X.

          Interesting concept. I like it…

          But it brings the question: would the 2 operating systems remain completely isolated from each other? I would assume so, with iCloud being the way that data is shared. Where’s the popcorn? There’s some exciting stuff coming in 2012.

          1. Storage is important — you would want to have direct access to the data stored on the iPad, not just indirectly via the Cloud.

            So the keyboard part should contain enough CPU to run (Mac) OS X, and use the iPad’s memory as an SSD.

            And it should be possible to save and restore the running OS as you link/unlink the two devices, recognizing that the files themselves may have changed in the meantime.

            And you shouldn’t necessarily have to physically dock the two devices. If you have enabled it, just bringing the two devices close up would be enough.

            Hmm, maybe the iPad just needs to act as a wireless network storage device, coupled with a minimalist Mac that consists of keyboard, CPU and enough storage for the OS, and a few device connectors (USB, Thunderbolt?), iPod dock connector.

      2. So there’s a battery in the monitor/tablet and another in the “computer” (since the one in the tablet half would not have enough juice to run a full-bore computer. Similarly for chips and hard-drives that then have to talk to each other (unless the ones in the tablet are simply designated as redundant when the two semi-computers are joined. Seems to be a hardware case of Windows-8-ness — i.e. in trying to be everything, the result is clunkiness and inefficiency. No?

        1. I don’t think you’d need to have a processor or anything in the dock. *Maybe* storage (if that doesn’t catch up to where we need it to be fast enough, though history dictates it will pretty soon), and probably some extra battery (need to weight it with something anyways).

          But really, at the rate SoC’s are improving, I see those being able to run this kind of device handily within a few years. I mean, iOS isn’t *that* pared down compared to Mac OS, yet the iPads seem positively zippy compared to most Macs, even using current-gen ARM SoC’s. A lot of that is due to optimization and using SSD’s from the get-go, but I can see that kind of performance carrying over to a hybrid iOS/Mac OS machine if done correctly.

      3. “It’s actually a pretty damn good idea”

        Really? I can’t see how it even makes sense.

        Wow, I can use it as a tablet and have a non-functional, half laptop left over to use as a paperweight! Or I can use it as a laptop, and lose the use of a tablet! That’s so… Uh… Convenient somehow?

        This “secret weapon” is an exercise in solving a problem that doesn’t exist, like so much infomercial fodder before it.

        And if the tablet portion runs Metro, well, nobody will use use it even if the basic idea does make sense. Which it doesn’t, adding insult to injury.

        I hope Microsoft throws lots of money at this. Lots.

        1. The point is to have the use of a laptop and a tablet without having to buy two separate devices. Most of the hardware could be shared between the two (I see the dock just containing a keyboard, extra battery, a few extra ports, and maybe an auxiliary graphics processor or storage if SSD’s haven’t caught up enough).

          I don’t really understand your criticisms. You seem to be suggesting that it’s somehow a problem to have the dock left over when you’re using the tablet, or to not be able to use it as a tablet when you’re using it as a laptop. But I can’t see why that would be, given that you presumably wouldn’t want to use it as both simultaneously (I can’t even think of a time where I’ve used my iPad and MacBook at the same time except when I’m syncing them, which would obviously be a non-issue).

          As for the problem not existing… let me tell you, the biggest reason most people hold back from a tablet is that ultimately, it still can’t do some of the things a computer does nearly as well. Most of that is due to the OS it’s running as well as the lack of keyboard/mouse input. Now, it’s possible that as the tablet market matures, the apps will catch up to the computer ones in terms of sophistication, but until that happens, a lot of users won’t want to ditch their laptop, which means convincing them to buy both a computer *and* a tablet. And if you’re going to have both, why not have them be one in the same.

          This idea has legs. Whether or not it becomes the Next Big Thing, I think it will meet the usage requirements for a lot of users quite well.

          1. “The point is to have the use of a laptop and a tablet without having to buy two separate devices.”

            Yes, and how does that make sense? What on earth is the benefit of buying a hybrid laptop-tablet instead of just buying a laptop and a tablet separately? There is none.

            It limits you to only one device at any given time – tablet or laptop. Nobody else can use one half while you’re using the other. You can’t go around reading, watching a movie, using some lightweight apps or whatever on the tablet as the laptop is being used for something else, like intensive downloading or heavy lifting. If one half breaks, then you’re screwed out of having a tablet AND a laptop both.

            Is it supposed to be a good idea because it’s cheaper? You don’t even know if it would be cheaper. In fact, considering how cheap the cheapest laptops and tablets are, it probably can’t even compete on price.

            The hybrid concept is, to borrow a phrase from Steve Jobs, a bag of hurt. Stupid as hell would also be another way to put it.

            “And if you’re going to have both, why not have them be one in the same.”

            Because it’s an inferior option in every conceivable way. The idea has less legs than a snake.

          2. And to add to that, a hybrid also means that you can’t buy a laptop with one set of features and a tablet with another. Neither can each run their own separate operating system, and oh boy, you’d better like Metro. Which considering the wide consensus that it’s repugnant, you probably won’t.

  1. I want to imagine that Apple has had many prototypes of such creatures in their secret skunkworks labs.

    I hope right before Wintel announces their vaporware, Apple shows off something that completes catches off guard and makes their “secret weapon” seem outdated before it is even released.

  2. Heya

    Apple should consider dropping Intel.

    With Grand Central Apple OS should be able to utilize all 8 cores of AMU Bulldozer.
    If you look at the review online, softwares that utilize all 8 cores like Handbrake are faster than Intel fastest chips.
    And AMD APU is leaps ahead of Intel sandy Bridge and if the CES is any indication Ivy Bridge.

  3. But hasn’t it already been shown that Windows 8 Metro has little consumer attraction, vis a vis Nokia sales, and reviews of Windows 8 desktop with the metro overlay show that it blows goats? I fail to see how this could be a ‘secret weapon’ to take on Apple when the ammunition is so fundamentally flawed. #dampsquib

    1. And the business part:
      “I believe this latter design is the secret weapon that Microsoft and Intel can use against Apple and at least on paper, give Apple a run for its money, especially in business and enterprise.”
      He can believe anything he wants, but Apple does not target the business market. It’s consumers bringing Apple devices to the enterprise.
      From where Windows 8 is at, Microsoft can’t even SEE a puck.

  4. If the touch interface is good enough there’s no need for a separate keyboard. If Microsoft and Intel are really out to compete they ought to be developing the Courier concept. Twin touch screens that can either be angled like a laptop of laid flat as a tablet would interest me, the same old “twist the laptop screen and it’s a tablet PC” crap that Dell and HP tried 5 years ago wouldn’t.

  5. A laptop with a detachable keyboard or a slate with an attachable one. What’s the difference.

    The iPad is in the latter category and has been around for a few years now. So how is Wintel inventing a new category?

  6. Hahaha This is ridiculous… Basically, they are putting all their hopes on imitating the Asus Transformer Prime…

    Dear Microsoft and Intel…. Please realize that in order to compete with apple (or hope to compete with apple) you need to copy/rip off THE BEST, not the second best product out there.

    😉 Have a nice day. I will still be laughing at the massive failure this will be…

  7. Nah, happy with the separation of “church and state” I.e. iPad and Mac Books. Devices that hook together like that will inevitably have connection and re-connection issues. Better not to go there. The only reason Microsoft and Intel would do it is it’s a sneaky way to keep the status quo. The whole point of an iPad or tablet is to reduce the imprint, not slap it back onto another keyboard half.

  8. Again, it all comes down to the user experience (is the device actually enjoyable to use?) and performance, price, weight and battery life.

    So far, MS, Android, Intel and all their OEMinions haven’t been able to combine those qualities into a breakout mobile device.

  9. MacBook Air is 5 years old?

    “…‘What took you so long?’ given that Apple has had their MacBook Air on the market for five years and defined what an Ultrabook should be,” Bajarin writes.”

  10. Secret weapon, secret sauce, Apple killer, vague vaporware threats for years. Whatever. Busy getting work done and having an elegant efficient blast on my Apple products.

  11. They want a tablet that runs Windows programs. Microsoft’s Windows Slates have been on the market for 11 years. Virtually no one bought them.

    Making the Slate look like an iPad won’t change that.

    As for an iPad in the hand and a PC when hooked up to an Apple I looking keyboard, that is the very definition of Clusterfuck.

    Good luck with that.

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