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Tablets, Notebooks, and Ultrabooks: What's the Future Form Factor?

Thanks to the consumerization of IT, new form factor hybrids will provide opportunities for resellers. But according to HP's Matt Smith, recurring revenue service models will amp up profits. By Michael Siggins By Michael Siggins

Matthew "Matt" R. Smith is the director of marketing for HP’s Solution Partners Organization (SPO). Smith brings experience and expertise in market research and analytics for partner marketing, digital marketing, sales development, and incentives. Smith spoke recently with ChannelPro-SMB publisher Michael Siggins about where form factors are going and where channel partners can find opportunities.

ChannelPro-SMB: Talk about form factors and where they are going. We see transitions happening at record paces, and the number of different products is exploding. Netbooks became 15 percent of the market in a day, and went from zero to 15 and back to zero.

Smith: It was at record paces. You see the same thing with Apple. [The iPad] ramped up [and] everybody’s got to have one. You haven’t seen them go down. But you’re seeing more products and seeing people trying new and different things. Our expectation is you’re going to see a lot more trialing of products. Is [the preferred form factor] going to be the tablet? Is it going to be the hybrid? One thing that’s consistent is people want lighter, faster, better battery life, and cheaper [prices]. That’s just the way we’re expecting things to go.

A lot of the restructuring we’re doing [at HP] is about integration and consolidation of products. [Here are] a couple of different examples. The Spectre [is a] consumer product that we’ve had for a long time and] turned it into an ultra-thin form factor, so it’s now the thinnest and lightest. And then we just announced the commercial version. So there’s now a Spectre [ultrabook] for consumers and a Spectre for commercial [users]. It’s got the TPM [Trusted Platform Module] security chip, commercial quality, reliability, [and] warranty on it.

So here you see a consumerization of IT, or at least an integration between a consumer product and a commercial product. You’re seeing that across the board. Ultrabooks are in the same camp. Tablets are doing very well cannibalizing some of the notebook business. Now you’re getting these ultrabooks, which are starting to get more interest [as the] lightest, thinnest [PC] product out there.

Come the end of this year you’re going to see a hybrid version. You’re going to see ultrabooks that the top snaps off. It acts and looks like a notebook, and then it acts and looks like a tablet. It just depends on the configuration. [We have] big expectations on this. We’re going to have multiple products that come out. Some are going to be ARM [processor based], some are going to be x86, and all will be available around Windows 8, with some of them backwards compatible. But they’re going to offer the best of both worlds.

I’m expecting big things out of it. You look at [the] tablet market today; most people are carrying around a keyboard with it, right? You can get the best of both worlds [with a hybrid] with 10 hours of battery life and have them both together and operating in whichever model you want. I’m pretty excited about that. 

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