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Hybrid tablets launch at IFA Berlin

2012-08-30 20:41

Berlin - Hybrid devices combining a tablet computer and an ultra-thin notebook looked set on Thursday to be signature products at Europe's biggest consumer-electronics trade fair, IFA, in Berlin.

On the eve of the fair, which opens on Friday and continues until 5 September, Toshiba of Japan was among the first to unveil a new hybrid model using the upcoming Windows 8 operating system, which was designed with touchscreen computers in mind.

The Toshiba Satellite U920t has a 12.5-inch touchscreen like a tablet computer, but also has a slide-out keyboard. The company declined to disclose prices but said it would go on sale in the fourth quarter.

The sector has been dominated by the Apple iPad. Rivals have sought new designs to compete with the US company and at the same time avoid charges of infringing on Apple patents and designs.

Competitors Sony, Samsung and Asus are also expected to offer similar hybrids at the annual show and to argue that they are better suited for work than the iPad, which has been mainly successful as a leisure device for reading e-mail and watching movies.

Microsoft is to release Windows 8 on 27 October and is also releasing its own tablet device, Surface, which comes with a thin separate keyboard that doubles as a cover. No price has been disclosed.

Samsung, still smarting from a $1bn defeat this week in a California court battle with Apple over alleged copying, is to unveil the Ativ Smart PC, a hybrid with a keyboard magnetically attached to the tablet body.

A Sony hybrid, the Vaio Duo 11, will be offered in Europe for €1 200, the Japanese company said.

Analysts said that ultra-thin notebooks had failed to scoop up much market share, so it made sense to make them more like tablets.

"If you've bought a tablet already, you probably wouldn't buy an ultrabook as well," said Annette Zimmermann, an analyst at market research company Gartner, which forecasts that previously available ultrabooks will secure only 5% of the notebook market this year.