Survey Shows Tim Cook Probably Right About 2-in-1 Apple Hybrids

On November 15, Cook told the Irish Independent, “We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad….Because what that would wind up doing, or what we’re worried would happen, is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants. So we want to make the best tablet in the world and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways.”

His comment made ripples in tech news, and answered a lingering question: will Apple attempt to merge their MacBook and iPad lines into some kind of hybrid product? Such a move would follow computing trends: according to IDC research analyst Jitesh Ubrani, “2-in-1s are the only reason we expect the overall tablet market to experience positive growth from 2016 onward.”

In the week following Cook’s statement, research firm Hit Laboratories conducted an internet survey of 512 US consumers to investigate two questions that arise from his statement:

  1. Do Apple customers want to buy a hybrid device?
  2. Would a hybrid be the best experience for those that want one?


31% of Apple customers want to buy a 2-in-1 hybrid

Although Microsoft’s Surface and other Windows hybrids have demonstrated a market for 2-in-1 devices, is it possible that Apple customers have different needs and desires? It doesn’t seem so: among the respondents (of which 47% were Apple customers) there was no statistically significant difference between the groups when asked “what are you most interested in purchasing as your next primary computing device?”


Remainder of responses were “I don’t know” and “None of the above.” “Apple customers” were respondents who owned at least one device running the iOS or OS X operating systems. “Primary computing device” was defined to respondents as “your ‘main device’, with a screen 10 inches or larger, which you would use for anything more than simple tasks.”


Hybrids would not provide the best experience for everyone

The second question is whether a 2-in-1 hybrid would actually deliver a great experience for those who want one. As Cook implied, designing a hybrid device necessitates design compromises which cannot yet be resolved by engineering. For example, a device cannot have both a large screen (possibly a valued attribute in a laptop), and a small portable screen (maybe better for a tablet).

We examined ten different attributes and found that among people who wanted a hybrid as their next device, their preferences were potentially incompatible with what a hybrid would actually deliver.


Larger screen vs. smaller portable screen

On, the average laptop screen size is 14.5 inches, and the average tablet size is 7.3 inches. It stands to reason that a hybrid with an intermediate screen size (around 11 to 12 inches) would be too big when used as a tablet, and too small when used as a laptop. The below chart shows that among Apple customers who want to buy a hybrid, there’s a broad range of preferences which couldn’t be satisfied by any one device.

30% prefer a "smaller" and 59% prefer a "larger" screen size.

30% prefer a “smaller” and 59% prefer a “larger” screen size.

Touchscreen vs. Trackpad

When Apple customers were asked what they’d prefer in a hybrid, only 11 percent wanted a touchscreen without trackpad. Most respondents wanted some degree of trackpad support to complement the touch input, which could be interpreted as wanting a small trackpad. It’s interesting to note that the iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard, the closest thing Apple has to a 2-in-1 hybrid, has no trackpad at all. Fortunately, a trackpad should be easy for Apple to add to any future hybrid design: Microsoft’s Surface tablet has a small trackpad, and the Surface Book hybrid has a large trackpad.

30% tend toward a trackpad, and 55% toward a touchscreen

Performance vs. Battery life

While leading laptops and tablets have similar battery life when being actively used, laptops tend to have stronger processors, and tablets can be used for days in connected standby mode. A 2-in-1 would need both high performance and great battery life to satisfy demand, as seen below.

58% prefer faster a processor; 35% longer battery life.
58% prefer faster a processor; 35% longer battery life.

Tim Cook may be right: maybe Apple customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad, but they are clearly interested in buying a hybrid device of some kind. The next question is if the iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard combination, with its relatively small screen and no trackpad, will fill that need.

Pebble E-Watch Scores highly on Consumer Testing

Seattle, Washington

July 7, 2013


If you haven’t yet heard of the Pebble, you soon will. The Pebble may be the first stone thrown on what’s shaping up to be a new digital product battleground.

Last month the Pebble “E-Paper Watch” became the most successful project to-date on popular crowdfunding site Achieving its $100,000 goal in just two hours, the project ultimately raised $10,266,844. Partly based on this success, Pebble next raised an additional $15M in venture capital funding.

In early May, Seattle-based research company Hit Laboratories performed a product viability test on the Pebble watch. It scored 9.1 out of 10 on the InstaHit test, indicating strong market potential and mass market appeal. Of those who wanted to buy it, the average price they would pay was $91.87. The demand was found to be very elastic: 48% of respondents indicated strong interest in buying at a price of $99. Among a separate group of respondents the response dropped to 20% at a price of $150.

The InstaHit test employs a representative sample of US consumers who learn about the product from images and a brief description, then record their perceptions and interest in buying it. Their responses are used to calculate the product’s score and viability metrics, which include usefulness, uniqueness, effectiveness, and shareability.

The research suggests the Pebble is ready to become a mainstream product, addressing concerns that the market isn’t yet ready to support the “smartwatch” category.

Today Pebble enters retail at BestBuy stores at $149.99. It’s expected that competition will follow soon; Apple recently applied for “iWatch” trademarks in several countries, and Samsung, Microsoft, and Dell are also rumored to be developing smartwatch devices.

There is no question that Kickstarter was instrumental in Pebble’s early success. The campaign earned significant attention, proving the Pebble concept was at least interesting to the 68,928 backers. Investors and retailers undoubtedly gained confidence by watching the Kickstarter community “vote with their wallets”.

However not all products on Kickstarter reach their funding goals. Do failed campaigns indicate bad consumer product? Not according to Hit Laboratories CEO Alex Frakking:

[blockquote width=’100′]“I don’t believe Kickstarter can reliably predict a product’s retail viability. That’s mainly because Kickstarter community members are very different from your average consumer, and they have different motives. I’ve also seen good Kickstarter products that didn’t gain traction simply because they weren’t promoted properly. There’s a strong popularity contest element there.”[/blockquote]

The problem of market validation is not unique to Kickstarter products. The major consumer product companies use established and often elaborate systems for testing new product concepts before committing to their full development. Not all marketers however have the knowledge or resources for extensive testing. On this issue, Frakking comments, “The main challenge for product developers is knowing if a concept warrants the significant investment required to bring it to market. Many product failures can be avoided by listening to consumers early on – either by modifying the design, or by pursuing other opportunities.”


Google Glass Tested for Consumer Appeal

(Press Release)

Seattle, Washington
May 1, 2012

Hit Laboratories Inc., provider of consumer product testing services, tested Google’s Glass concept and found it to have very good market potential in the USA at a price of $132.60. The test was conducted on the InstaHit platform.

On April 4 Google announced their “Google Glass” project, which is developing a way to overlay graphics from a mobile device onto the user’s normal vision. Looking similar to normal glasses, features include graphics overlay, stereo speakers for music and calling, a microphone, and a camera to take still photos and video of where the user is looking. News and blog sites across the internet buzzed with speculation on the market potential of such a device. As an entirely new product, it’s unclear to many technology pundits how consumers will react.

Two days after the Google Glass announcement Hit Laboratories conducted an InstaHit test – the standard pre-market test of product performance based on consumer feedback. The Google Glass product scored an 8.9 out of 10; a score just short of “excellent” but still indicating very good potential with American consumers. The target demographic was identified as single males age 30-49, and a price of $132.60 was found most agreeable. The market size is good with nearly 50% of consumers expressing immediate interest in purchasing.

The glasses earned the highest score to-date on InstaHit’s Shareability metric, owing to consumers finding it very “remarkable”, being excited to use it, and it being a very visible product which would be noticed by many and a good topic of conversation for users. It scored poorly on the Usefulness metric because consumers do not feel the Google Glass solves an important problem in their lives.

InstaHit is the leading test of new direct response products. It predicts performance using a propriety statistical model which correlates new products with the success of previously marketed products. InstaHit reveals to marketers and inventors what price consumers are willing to pay, what the potential market size is, who the target market should be, and how their product compares with other products on five key Viability Metrics.

Hit Laboratories provides scientific product optimization, market research, as well as brand and consumer monitoring services. It serves retail, DRTV, and ecommerce clients.


Company Contact:

Hit Laboratories Inc.

821 2nd Avenue

Seattle WA 98104, USA