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2 in 1 PCs Bridge Gap Between Laptops and Tablets

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Head over to your local Best Buy and ask a sales rep to show you the 2 in 1s. Chances are they'll be confused about what you're asking for. Is it a tablet with a keyboard attachment A laptop with a swivel screen A touch screen notebook

"What do you mean by 2 in 1?" asked a Best Buy sales representative at a location in Manhattan's posh Chelsea neighborhood.

Between the rollout of Microsoft's Surface 3 and Intel's unveiling of a new 2 in 1 reference design at Computex 2014, it's clear industry players are keen to establish these hybrid devices as a viable product category, but are consumers warming up?
2 in 1 PC in Tent Mode

"This one's really hot right now," the Best Buy rep said, gesturing toward a Lenovo Yoga convertible ultrabook. "I guess it's a 2 in 1."

That sentiment reflects how many consumers currently perceive the category. IDC predicts 2 in 1 sales will grow considerably in 2014, but the data analytics firm didn't even start tracking them as a distinct category before March.

"2 in 1s are catching on, especially in businesses, but what we're seeing is that the market appeal for the devices is still pretty narrow because you kind of have to know about them in the first place," said Jack Narcotta, a device analyst with New Hampshire-based Technology Business Research.

With the success of devices like Lenovo's Yoga and the new Surface 3, word is beginning to spread that 2 in 1s are indeed a new kind of device - not simply a premium tablet with keyboard accessories. With the 2 in 1 use case established, sales figures are starting to reflect the idea that consumers want more from their mobile devices than iPad or Galaxy Tab can offer.

"We found that there's a gap between what consumers currently use their tablets for and what they want to use their tablets for," Narcotta said. "In that gap is a device that's about $600 or $700 and has the capabilities of the traditional notebook PC and a tablet."

If that "gap" sounds an awful lot like the Asus T100 Transformer or Surface 3, you're not off the mark. The definition of 2 in 1s is still fuzzy, but that hasn't stopped the category from enjoying an upswing in user adoption, according to Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, a consultancy and publisher. Indeed, IDC predicts 2 in 1 sales will grow by 66 percent in 2014 with 10.3 million units shipped.

"The latest data from IDC suggests that adoption is strengthening as tablet sales are either slowing or hitting a wall," King said. "Over time, I expect 2 in 1s to carve out a sizable position in the marketplace, particularly among business users."

Gartner projects the PC market as a whole will enjoy a slight resurgence in 2014 and 2015. Although traditional PC sales (desktops and notebooks) still dwarf so-called "premium ultramobiles," which include 2 in 1s, the category is nonetheless growing at a far quicker rate than conventional PCs - going from more than 32 million units in 2014 to over 55 million in 2015.

Still, IDC says 2 in 1s have a long way to go to match PC or tablet sales. The category isn't expected to break 20 million units until 2016, with 31.2 million projected by 2018.

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Tags: USA