If you Google “detachable computing” today you will mostly get a selection of links relating to removable storage media.
It’s a trend that’s slowly changing, but detachable computing is also coming closer to meaning the use of laptop devices that function and fully-working laptops with a detachable screen that will serve as a tablet when needed.
These devices are also known as detachable or hybrid or two-in-one PCs.
This ‘trend’ within the wider computing firmament has been reflected at various levels. Smartphone manufacturers (such as BlackBerry) have tried to build operating system functionality that allows the user to segment home/personal usage on the one hand — and business/corporate usage on the other.
A typical user scenario
The manufactures behind these units paint this type of usage scenario:
A user is at a conference using Wi-Fi to talk to his or her spouse via Skype or some other video-based communication technology. He or she also has Facebook open and various other personal applications. A call comes in from head office and the user needs to end the personal communiqué to initiate a secure login to the corporate server to access sensitive documents. The user has the ability to work with personal apps in one use case (possibly more likely in tablet mode), but is quickly able to “snap on” the keyboard, change settings and start to use heavyweight enterprise applications — hence the detachable hybrid power user is born, or so the theory goes.
Today’s detachable computing advocates will repeatedly use terminology like: “maximum flexibility with the security needed to keep business data protected” — as this describes the promise of the dream we are trying to attain here.
It’s all about the work-life balance of course and it is true that today’s workforce is faced with an unprecedented challenge in terms of the way it tries to “blend” work and personal lives. Mobile technologies will, of course, be key to facilitating this.
“While the use of technology in business has allowed a blurring of the line that separates work and life, many businesses still use outdated technology that does not deliver a satisfying experience to its employees,” said Kobi Elbaz, vice president, Commercial Personal Systems, Printing and Personal Systems Group, HP EMEA.
A changing tide?
But hybrid devices with detachable screens have (arguably) had a somewhat limited lifespan up until now. We now see that manufacturers are making these units at a higher quality grade and shipping them with the option to have comparatively powerful internal components.
Some argue that the success of the operating system itself will dictate whether detachable hybrids flourish as our next major computing paradigm i.e. that is to say… we Microsoft tells us that Windows 8.1 Pro is a success, but is it really? If it were a runaway success then we would have more of an excuse to talk about how detachables will be the next big thing — if they’re not already of course.
Remember when you refused to consider the notion that the iPad (with additional Logitech or Kensington or other keyboard attached) could be a workable corporate portable device? Things have changed and applications and cloud services now exist to make the iPad very usable.
We need to consider detachables as a strong contender as the device form factor of tomorrow — they just might work out.