Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, is more optimistic about the future of Windows hybrids. He believes that the market for premium 10-inch tablets will shrink as smaller tablets take over, while users will opt for hybrids to serve their content-creation needs.
"I think that people's redefinition of what the ultimate tablet is--7 inches--actually helps Ultrabooks, notebooks, and convertibles get more popular," Moorhead says.
The key, Moorhead adds, will be faster processors and more refined versions of Windows, combined with lower prices. At that point, it won't make much sense to buy a full-size iPad instead of something like Microsoft's Surface. "I can see, at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014, where this space gets sexy again, because it's just so demonstrably different from what [consumers] can do today," Moorhead says.
That sounds a lot like Microsoft's own message: That we're still in the early days of Windows 8. The best hope for the PC market is that as people start gobbling up smaller tablets, they'll also go looking for larger devices that offer much more than just the same iOS and Android apps on a slightly larger tablet display.
Still, even then, Windows machines will face the usual competition from Macs, which are increasingly converging software-wise with iOS devices, as well as new competition from Chromebooks, which are looking more interesting by the day. Though all signs point to a smaller-tablet takeover led by the iPad mini, the remains of the computing market are very much up for grabs.
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