Dell today at the Intel Developer Forum unveiled a hybrid computer called the Dell Inspiron Duo that, with a couple of twists, morphs between a tablet and a laptop with a physical keyboard. While the design appears innovative and encouraging -- and may give the iPad some competition -- the Inspiron Duo's announced platform, Windows 7, and processor, the Intel Atom, significantly detract from the overall wow factor.
The Inspiron Duo's ability to switch from tablet to laptop is the exciting bit. A deservedly popular computing device, the iPad has demonstrated that tablets -- which are by no means new -- are finally viable for mainstream adoption. It's well-designed, attractive, and easy to use, but for all intents and purposes, it's an entertainment device, not a productivity tool. Yes, you can conveniently check your email and send messages with it, as well as flip through reports or e-books, hop from Web page to Web page, and otherwise browse and consume to your heart's content.
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But with an iPad (or any tablet), you aren't going to sit down for several hours to write reports, polish presentations, or spruce up your spreadsheets -- unless you're a masochist or you have a keyboard and a stand for propping up the device. On-the-go workers likely won't want to schlep around extra gear so that they can use their iPad for productivity-related tasks.
The Dell Inspiron Duo appears to bridge the gap between entertainment device and productivity tool. You have the tablet portion, which offers a level of simplicity and convenience as you breeze through data and apps with your fingers. But when it's time for work, just flip and rotate the machine; voilà, you have a laptop, complete with physical keyboard and erect screen.