Last week, Apple's CEO Tim Cook made it painfully clear how he feels about laptop-tablet hybrids. More importantly, so did our readers. Unlike Cook, many of our readers welcomed the idea of a hybrid tablet saying they'd be first in line to buy one. Others even claimed they'd ditch their iPad for a Windows 8 hybrid tablet. An astounding 69% of readers polled believe hybrids are the wave of the future, which flies in the face of Cook's claim that consumers don't actually want such an electronics mash-up.
But just how much money are you willing to spend on a Windows 8 tablet hybrid? Lenovo, which is expected to be the first manufacturer of a Windows 8 tablet hybrid, estimates its IdeaPad Yoga will debut at a staggering $1,200. For that amount you can buy a first generation ultrabook and Android tablet.
However, we can't imagine every Windows 8 hybrid will cost this much, so we did a little guesswork to see what other tablet hybrids could potentially cost. To do that, we turned to today's most popular hybrid, the ASUS Transformer. The ASUS Transformer (TF101) debuted in April of 2011 for $399 list price. (Three days later it dropped to $368; it currently sells for $300.) It managed to bring tablet hybrids into the mainstream without the sticker shock.
Is the Price Right, When Compared to a Hybrid's Main Competitors?Assuming Windows 8 tablet hybrids debut at or close to this estimated $399 price point — we imagine they'll be slightly pricier since they'll pack a built-in keyboard (the ASUS keyboard is a separate purchase) and better specs — we wanted to lay out how they'd stack up to the devices they'll be in direct competition with. So what standard tablets and laptops are in the same price category, and could a hybrid beat them?
Windows 8 Tablet Hybrid vs. iPad 2
Despite being over a year old, the newly-reduced iPad 2 is slated to be Microsoft's Achilles heel. The iPad 2 has received the biggest discount of any Apple product, dropping 28% in price. In fact, just last week we saw it hit an all-time low of $360 for the second time this year. Even though a hybrid tablet will offer increased input flexibility, it's still likely that manufacturers will have to price their Windows 8 hybrids comfortably under $360 to beat the immensely popular iPad 2. And considering the original ASUS Transformer debuted at $399 without the optional keyboard, we just don't see that happening.
Winner: Apple iPad 2
Windows 8 Tablet Hybrid vs. Budget Laptop
A hybrid Windows 8 tablet may not replace your desktop, but for some it'll replace the need to buy a new laptop. However, today's budget laptops are so inexpensive that a $399 tablet actually seems like a splurge in comparison. So far in 2012, the average price for a 16" dual-core laptop has been $274 with prices expected to go lower. (In fact, just this week we saw an AMD E-300 equipped 16" HP laptop for just $250.) Now we understand not everyone wants to carry a 5-lb.+ laptop, so we also compared our mythical $399 hybrid tablet to a svelte 12" Core i5-powered ultraportable. The average price for a 12" Core i5-based ultraportable in 2012 has been $649, significantly higher than our $399 tablet. So although it lost against our bargain bin laptop, a tablet hybrid easily outprices a Core i5 ultraportable. (However, keep in mind that AMD- and Core i3-based ultraportables have already hit $350 in these past few weeks.)
Windows 8 Tablet Hybrid vs. Traditional Tablet
One of the hottest tablets we list on dealnews is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10" WiFi Tablet. In the past four months, the 16GB version of this tablet averaged $380, which is very close to our mythical price of $399. However, other popular tablets, like the BlackBerry PlayBook and Amazon Kindle Fire, are even less expensive than the Samsung Galaxy Tab, putting an extreme amount of pressure on Windows 8 hybrid tablets.
Winner: Traditional tablet
Price-wise, things are looking grim for Microsoft. If it wants to enter the tablet market with a bang manufacturers will either need an extremely aggressive price point or a near-perfect product. Microsoft can make this happen, the question is — will they? At $1,200, tablet hybrids will be a niche product. At $399, they're still pricier than many tablets and laptops, but a little more acceptable. Factor in a few early deals and they might get some traction.
But the question remains — how much are you willing to pay for a Windows 8 tablet hybrid? Sound off in the comments below.