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Apple CEO Tim Cook: Tablet hybrids don't stand a chance

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a conference call this week that hybrid laptop/tablets would not please anyone. 

By Matthew Shaer / April 25, 2012

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks after an event introducing the new iPad. Cook this week expressed skepticism that hybrid ultrabooks/tablets would appeal to consumers.

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Earlier this month, at an event in Beijing, Intel took the wraps off the "Letexo," a kind of tablet/ultrabook hybrid. According to The Verge, which first picked up on the story, the Letexo can be used like a standard tablet – or, with the help of a slide-out kickstand and keyboard, like a regular old laptop. Presumably the market here is folks who want the portability and intuitiveness of a tablet, twinned with the more practical functionality of a real keyboard. 

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So is this the future of the tablet market? Microsoft certainly seems to think so. This year, the software giant will release Windows 8, a new OS compatible with both tablets and laptops. As Paul McDougall of Information Week has pointed out, a range of "laptop-tablet convertibles" are already poised to take advantage of Windows 8, among them the Fujitsu Lifebook, the HP EliteBook, and Dell Inspiron Duo. 

But Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, isn't so sure. In a conference call this week, Cook pooh-poohed the idea of these hybrid devices, arguing that "the problem is that the products are about tradeoffs. You begin to make tradeoffs to the point where what you have left at the end of the day doesn't please anyone," Cook said. And in a partial transcript provided by Apple Insider, Cook went one step further. 

"You wouldn't want to put these things together because you end up compromising in both and not pleasing either user. Some people will prefer to own both, and that's great too. But to make the compromise of convergence, we're not going to that party," Cook added. "Others might, from a defensive point of view particularly." The import of that last line should be clear: The CEO of Apple, which dominates the tablet market, is taking a shot at the underdogs. 

Of course, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs had a history of laughing off certain kinds of products, and then releasing such a device years later. In 2003, Jobs said, "There are no plans to make a tablet. It turns out people want keyboards." Cook learned many lessons from Jobs. No way to know if this is one of them. 

In March, Apple released its third iPad. The shell of the machine was a match with the iPad 2, but the new iPad shipped with a high-resolution "retina display." And reviewers loved it. "This display is outrageous. It’s stunning. It’s incredible," wrote one. Sales have been blockbuster

Do hybrid ultrabook/tablets such as the Letexo have a shot? Drop us a line in the comments section. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.

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