Windows 8 is available in a beta format now and is expected to be released as a finished product this fall.
Getty Images
Windows 8 is available in a beta format now and is expected to be released as a finished product this fall.

Story highlights

Apple CEO: Tablet-PC hybrids are like combining toasters and refrigerators

Microsoft is making a play with Windows 8 for tablets and PCs

With iPad sales soaring, Apple has little reason to push for a new gadget

Microsoft says converging operating systems are the future of computing

CNN —  

Is the future of computers a hybrid gadget that will combine the battery life and computing heft of a laptop with the portability and ease-of-use of a tablet?

Some in the industry are leaning toward “yes.” But Apple CEO Tim Cook pointedly says “no.”

“Anything can be forced to converge, but the problem is that products are about tradeoffs, and you begin to make tradeoffs to the point where what you have left at the end of the day doesn’t please anyone,” Cook said Tuesday in response to a question during Apple’s quarterly earnings report. “You can converge a toaster and refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user.”

Cook’s comments were at least in part a not-so-veiled jab at Microsoft, which, with its upcoming Windows 8 operating system, will be combining its PC and tablet operating systems.

The system is available in a beta format now and is expected to be released as a finished product this fall.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment for this article. But on Twitter, lead Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw made his own playful, appliance-oriented swipe.

“Must be a typo. It’s not a toaster/fridge. It’s a toaster/oven,” Shaw wrote Tuesday. “Those seem pretty popular. Just saying.”

A late entrant, Windows has recently seen some relative success in the smartphone market, most notably with the Nokia Lumia phones, which have sold more than 2 million units since they started rolling out in October.

Windows 8 is considered the computing giant’s most serious push to become a player in the tablet market as well. The system is a ground-up overhaul of its industry-leading operating system that has garnered positive reviews since it was released in beta form about a month and a half ago.

Currently, there’s no new product announced that would qualify as a Windows 8-powered, tablet-PC hybrid. But it’s definitely on folks’ minds.

Intel has shown off a prototype of a computer that flips from “consumption mode” (i.e. a tablet) to “work mode” (a laptop similar to the emerging line of sleek Ultrabooks).

Apple, of course, has dominated the tablet market since unveiling the iPad in 2010.

On Tuesday, Apple announced it sold 11.8 million iPads in the first quarter of this year, bringing the total sold to 67 million in roughly two years. It took the company 24 years to sell that many Macintosh computers.

As such, the company has little obvious reason to tout the need, or desire, for a new kind of device when it’s pounding the competition with the current one.

“The tablet market is going to be huge,” Cook said. “As the ecosystem gets better and better and we continue to double down on making great products, I think the limit here is nowhere in sight.”

But some observers said Wednesday that Cook’s reluctance to embrace a possible tablet-laptop convergence seems a bit ironic.

“That sounds familiar. Wasn’t there some other device that critics said would fail because it combined too many things?” wrote Business Insider’s Matt Rosoff. “Oh yeah. The iPhone. Which has sold 70 million units in the last six months.”

He provided links to multiple articles, including his own, from 2007 that questioned whether a pricey phone that sends e-mail, surfs the Web, plays video games and lets you listen to iTunes would catch on. Or to put it differently, it was a product that combined a toaster, a refrigerator and a few other appliances to boot.

“The point is: sometimes convergence works,” Rosoff wrote. “If you combine features that people want in a smart way, and sell it at the right price, it can work. Tim Cook of all people should know that.”