In the not so distant past the tech industry focus on almost any PC device concentrated on processor speeds and other numerically denominated “speeds-and-feeds” indicators and specifications. Much has changed in the last few years as CPU clock-speeds have started to level off, and hardware capabilities have caught up with most software challenges.
While specifications will always continue to be an important consideration, the technology press laser-pointer now has more of a tendency to be rightfully aimed directly at PC device form-factors. In the current rather stagnant and almost moribund global PC marketplace, it seems that smartphone and PC manufacturers are “desperately seeking Susan”, or at least some shapely form-factors that Susan and Sam will actually buy. With the meteoric rise of smartphones and tablets, Sam-end-user and Susan-consumer still have limited budgets that can only afford a limited number of devices. (Meteors crash down, not up, so the commonly used phrase, “meteoric rise”, may sound like an oxymoron until the Greek origin of the word is considered, which is lofty or raised.)
The Urge to Merge
End-users not only need, but are also demanding devices that functionally cross the boundaries of what laptops, tablets, and smartphones can do, regardless of whether the end-users are business content creation focused, or consumer content consumption motivated. That is of course the reason that our now familiar friend known as convergence spends so much time in the PC device form-factor design driver’s seat.
Laptops and tablets are undeniably undergoing form-factor convergence. By the end of 2014 advances in energy-sipping, low-profile, thin-and-light PC parts will allow designers to meet end-users’ demands for the best characteristics of both laptops and tablets merged into one easy to use hybrid-convertible device, providing seamless switching between the two modes, and with absolutely no loss of convenience or performance in either mode.
A recent high-profile and perhaps outstanding attempt at form-factor convergence arrived on the world stage as the Microsoft Surface tablet. As of December 2012, the jury is still out on that attempt, but it is an understatement to say that initial enthusiasm is waning considerably.
Ye olde journalist has previously reported on convertible laptop-tablet hybrids appearing in a variety of form-factors, including Rotators, Dockers with split personalities, 360-Degree Gymnasts, and unique industrial designs meant for dedicated military and corporate applications. Rotators, with rotating hinges mounted centrally at the back of the keyboard, constitute the classic form-factor that just keeps coming back for encores from several manufacturers. Let’s take a look at two recent examples of rotators; the HP EliteBook Revolve and the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist.
A Dance Named Convergence – HP EliteBook Revolve
The EliteBook Revolve is part of HP‘s ninth generation of convertible tablets and is clearly designed to withstand the rigors of business use, with an all-magnesium case, scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 2, and a range of third-generation Intel Core processors which are optimized for Windows 8. Win 8, however has almost no current penetration into enterprise IT environments and is not expected to do so in the near future, so Hewlett-Packard has wisely chosen to offer the EliteBook Revolve with either Windows 7 or Win 8. Business IT utilities and tools such as PXE boot support, Active Directory, an embedded, certified TPM security chip for data encryption, and BIOS protection provide IT management capabilities and allow for security in a fleet deployment environment.
Weighing in at just a bit more than 3 pounds, the EliteBook Revolve comes with an 11.6-inch diagonal high-definition (HD), touch-enabled display providing automatic adjustments to screen orientation and brightness, as well as an optional input pen, a full-sized, backlit keyboard, and enterprise-class docking capabilities, and of course, the flexibility of rapidly switching into tablet mode. Prices have not yet been announced for the HP EliteBook Revolve which is expected to be available in the United States by March 2013.
“Let’s All Do the Twist” – Lenovo ThinkPad Twist
With a weight of just less than 3.5 pounds the ThinkPad Twist from Lenovo also offers a range of third-generation Intel Core CPUs, but appears at this time to come only with Windows 8 or Win 8 Pro, with no mention on Lenovo’s specifications page of a Windows 7 option. The 12.5-inch display is 1,366 x 768, IPS (In-Plane Switching), with 5-point multi-touch capability, and is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass.
The full-sized keyboard is spill-resistant, and the digital dual-array microphones utilize keystroke noise suppression technology, in addition to echo and ambient noise suppression, for clear audio during internet calls. The hallmark red-tipped track-stick helps identify this as a true ThinkPad, and the keyboard has received kudos from most users. Some controls are mounted on the display screen bezel for ease of use in tablet mode, and a screen rotation lock button that toggles auto-rotation on and off is helpful. Unlike the EliteBook Revolve, the ThinkPad Twist does not offer a pen input device. Available now from Lenovo, the ThinkPad Twist starts at US-$746.
Rotators represent a classic form-factor of hybrid convertible laptop-tablet convergence, and with good reason: they just work.
Just like rotators by any other names, the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist, and the HP EliteBook Revolve are dancing to the tune of PC device convergence, along with a cast of thousands, including phablet smartphones.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Poet: Shakespeare
“A rose is a rose is a rose.” – Poet: Gertrude Stein
“Let’s All Do the Twist.” – Singer: Chubby Checker
State of the Union
“Convergence by any other name would still be a primary technology trend.” “Convergence is convergence is convergence.” “Let’s all do convergence.”- Journalist: Paul B. Wordman
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