Dell and others are building hybrid notebooks. They are literally two notebooks in one.
The first computer is an ARM- and Linux-based tinyPC that let’s you boot up very quickly and lets you do email and browsing with minimal power drain; the second is the orthodox Wintel box to let you handle heavier computing tasks.
Functionally, it sounds like a good idea for true road warriors (provided you could come up with some foolproof, brain-dead sync system for things like email. If most of what you do on the road only needs minimal computing, the ability to last an entire business day or more on a battery is a real benefit. Not having to wait a minute for Windows to boot up every time you want to do the slightest thing is a bonus. Yes, you can do that with a tinyPC netbook, but if you have to do real work once in a while, a netbook doesn’t really cut it, at least not yet.
It also seems like a good idea for mobile gamers. Might be nice not to drain your battery much while taking notes and Facebooking in class and save it for the sociopathic times in your life.
Conceptually, though, it’s such a kludge. It’s like an auto maker saying, “How can we build a fast car that gets great gas mileage when running around on errands?” then building a car with two engines. It might be a lot more complicated but much more elegant to figure out how to make the car run on just one or two cylinders in miser mode.
At a time when we have more cores than we know what to do with, it seems to me that in a future four-core system, you could have two CPUs, a GPU, and a miser core that would do whatever the ARM system would do. I’m sure it wouldn’t be easy to do, but it couldn’t be any harder than trying to get two computers in one small box to play well together.
Even that seems a little too kludgy. It might be better to build a dual-use system from the netbook level up rather than down. Make the Atom successor more powerful and capable of being cranked way up when needed, and that would take care of most business people. Hybrids might still make more sense for those who do really heavy-duty work occasionally, but that would be a smaller market.
This brings us to Windows. This isn’t just a hybrid CPU system, this is also a hybrid OS system. People get wound up about the length of time it takes to boot. Even people with desktops are bound to like the idea of getting in and out of their computer really fast to do whatever little things they need to do, and if some Linux OS can do that (and make it even easier than Windows to do such things) maybe they’ll start wondering what they need Windows for. It seems to me MS would have to come up with some mini-OS within their OS to counter that, and something tells me they’re not going to like that idea at all.
Looks like a good opportunity for the Penguin people to me.