Worldwide shipments of hybrid devices will increase 70 percent this year to 21.5 million units, according to Gartner, Inc. Hybrid devices will account for 12 percent of total sales of mobile PCs in 2015, rising to 26 percent in 2019, it predicted.
Ultramobile is Gartner’s term for new-age computers (similar to Intel’s Ultrabook nomenclature). Within Ultramobiles, it divides the devices into ‘regular Ultramobiles’, ‘tablet Ultramobiles’ and ‘hybrid Ultramobiles’. Hybrid Ultramobiles come with a keyboard (that can be detached), while tablet Ultramobiles can be bought without a keyboard.
“Of the 21.5 million hybrid devices shipped in 2015, 8 million will be ultramobile tablets (two-in-one tablets) and 13.5 million hybrid ultramobiles (two-in-one detachable and convertible ultramobiles). This will make hybrid ultramobiles the fastest-growing segment of the mobile PC market with 77 percent year-on-year growth,” said Tracy Tsai, research director at Gartner.
Asus, the first vendor to introduce a two-in-one ultramobile, was the No. 1 hybrid ultramobile device vendor in 2014 with 41 percent market share. Asus shipped 3.1 million hybrid ultramobile units, up 263 percent year on year. Asus practically invented the market with its Transformer Tab that was initially based on Android, and later also embraced Windows.
At present, Asus has the T100, T200 and T300 series of hybrid computers that are considered the most successful in the world. Asus is not very strong in the ‘tablet’ Ultramobile category, which is dominated by Microsoft with its Surface devices.
Hybrid ultramobiles are accounting for 15 percent of Asus’ mobile PC shipments in 2014, the highest mix ratio among all PC vendors.
Lenovo took the No. 2 position in 2014 with 1.9 million shipments of hybrid ultramobiles, an increase of 331 percent year on year. Lenovo focused its hybrid strategy on expanding into the consumer market, and successfully increased its share of hybrid ultramobiles in North America from 6 percent in 2013 to 31 percent in 2014.
Similarly in Western Europe, Lenovo’s hybrid ultramobile market share grew from 16.5 percent to 27 percent from 2013 to 2014.
HP was the third-largest player in the hybrid ultramobile market in 2014, selling 800,000 units. In 2014, HP significantly expanded its product line in this segment with a broad range of consumer models across a variety of price points, from $199 to $1,999. This enabled the company to rise from the No. 7 position in 2013.
Microsoft’s Surface is classified as a tablet ultramobile rather than a hybrid ultramobile under Gartner’s definition, as the touch-and-type keyboard is optional. In the ultramobile tablet segment, Microsoft was No. 1 with 36 percent market share in 2014. Combining the ultramobile hybrid and the ultramobile tablet, Microsoft was No. 3 with 14 percent market share worldwide, just behind Asus and Lenovo.
The hybrid device is essentially a reaction to two things – the drastic reduction in the power consumed by PC chips (mainly Intel chips with the ‘U’ series), and consumer preference for smaller, lighter devices such as the iPad. With many full-function PC chips consuming only 4-7 watts (against 20-80 watts three years ago), experimental OEMs like Asus and Lenovo have been quick to come up with the hybrids that offer the power and productivity of a laptop while switching to a tablet format when the user needs to hold the device in his hand for exhibition or reading.
“The combination of portability, productivity and flexibility of touch and a keyboard in one device is attracting some notebook and tablet users to replace their devices with hybrid form factors,” said Ms. Tsai. “PC vendors are expanding into this segment with a value proposition to compete with Apple and Android-based tablet vendors. Sales of hybrid devices have not stopped growing since 2012, totaling 12.6 million units in 2014 and expected to reach 58 million units in 2019.”
Gartner analysts added that, despite hybrid devices achieving strong growth, clamshells will remain the mainstream form factor, accounting for 87 percent of mobile PCs in 2015 and 74 percent in 2019.
PC vendors are expanding into hybrid devices for notebook and tablet users — the primary targets for the hybrid form factor. According to a Gartner survey of more than 21,000 respondents across five countries (U.S., China, Brazil, India and Germany) conducted in the third quarter of 2014, as many as 11 percent of tablet users, 10 percent of desktop users and 8 per cent of notebook users are considering replacing their current device with a hybrid device in the next two years.
In the enterprise segment, IT departments are struggling to make a compelling case to purchase hybrid ultramobiles for users because the PC installed base is predominantly Windows 7 and legacy applications are not touch-based. “However, this will change when businesses start to migrate to Windows 10,” said Ms. Tsai. “Windows 10 on hybrid ultramobiles will offer a better user experience with touch and voice as well as universal Windows apps — apps written just once that receive device-specific user experience tweaks to allow them to run on different Windows devices.”