The sporty convertible car is non-existent on Indian roads. The new tablet-laptop convertible, though, is getting lots of interest. Driven by Windows 8, it's going to make this the year of the convertible. I travel with my iPad and no laptop. Three years ago, I didn't go anywhere without my robust little ThinkPad X laptop. The iPad has great battery life, and is more flexible than a laptop-such as in places like an airport security queue.
I also carry the iPad alone when I'm on the road in my home city. If have to type a lot... I have my Apple wireless keyboard in the bag. For presentations, I do need an adaptor for the projector, but that's the case with my laptop too – now a thin-and-light MacBook Air. So what do I miss in the iPad, which takes me back to the laptop at home or office? The answer's only partly in the hardware – form factor, no keyboard – and mostly in the software.
Apple drew a thick separator line between computer and mobile device (tablets included). The former runs Mac OS X, the latter, iOS. Apple meant the tablet to be very different from the PC in use, experience and software.
The iPad has brilliant apps, geared toward simplicity, touch, easy consumption of media. Yes, there are good “creation” apps: office productivity, Garage Band, photo editors, iMovie.
For speed and serious work, though, I tend to move to the computer. Some apps pull me back there. Microsoft Office, some photo-editing tools, the web browser (which still feels more flexible on the computer) especially for Facebook and Twitter, and most of all, the power, speed and multi-tasking ability of the computer.
I've also tried non-Apple tablets exclusively. I went for a week without laptop or iPad, replacing them with the Rs 5k Aakash 2 (along with my BlackBerry). It was tough: Android doesn't have the brilliant, fluid apps of iOS, and the Aakash 2 had half the battery life of my iPad, but I survived.
The story is different with Windows. Microsoft draws its “separator line” between the phone on one side, and the tablet-and-PC group, on the other. That line is thinner than Apple's, with one operating systems across everything: Windows 8.
So there's the same Windows 8 running on both PC/laptop and on Intel-based tablets such as Microsoft's overpriced Surface Pro, and tablets from Samsung and others. The same software will run on both PC and tablet-including Microsoft Office.
For two months, I used a Samsung Slate 7 running Windows 8. On my office desk, the tablet would slot into a small dock. Along with its wireless keyboard, it would turn into a Windows desktop PC. On the move, I'd carry just the tablet.
The best of both worlds? Not quite. The Slate 7 is a bulky tablet, with battery life far worse than the iPad's. Nor does it have the iPad's elegant apps. Windows 8 and Metro are great on a tablet, but the whole system was closer to a PC than to an iPad.
Tablets running the ARM processor and Windows RT compare better with the slimmer, power-efficient iPad, but they're not as seamlessly compatible with Windows PCs and apps.
Convertibles, such as the Asus Transformer, Dell XPS 12, or IdeaPad Yoga, will be the flavor of 2013, bringing you bits of the best of both worlds. Not all of the best of both, though. They'll gradually take a chunk out of the traditional laptop's pie, potentially even replacing the midrange and high end laptops.
But they're not going to replace the iPad, with its incredible apps ecosystem and its battery life, and now, even its size options...don't forget the cute new Mini.