Bill Gates always wanted a tablet.
Back in 2001 when the first real tablet PC running Windows emerged, Gates was bullish in an interview with CNN: “Within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America,” he said. Apple’s iPad won the tablet popularity race nearly 10 years later, but it hasn’t become the most popular form of PC yet.
Gates saw the value of a convertible tablet complete with a keyboard and a pen 15 years ago, but it’s not Apple that’s leading the industry forward with the idea of a modern tablet. It’s Microsoft.
We've seen some weird and wonderful two-in-one tablets over the years, thanks largely to Windows 8, but it seems the industry as a whole is settling on a combination of detachable keyboard, tablet, and some type of kickstand or adjustable hinge. Microsoft's Surface Book is a fresh take on the laptop, but Google, Apple, HP, Dell, and others all seem to be taking a lot of inspiration from the Surface Pro 3.
Microsoft has created a trend
Apple revealed its iPad Pro recently, and it has a stylus, a removable keyboard, and a large 12-inch display. Lenovo launched its Ideapad Miix 700 and it's practically identical to the Surface Pro 3 with an adjustable kickstand and a keyboard cover that magnetically snaps onto the screen. HP and Dell both have efforts that are clearly Suface-inspired, and Google even has its own attempt with the Android-powered Pixel C. They might all have subtle differences, but the idea is the same: It's a laptop with a detachable keyboard.
Just like Apple didn't invent the tablet, Microsoft hasn't invented the two-in-one. What it has given the industry is some real innovation to catch up to. Apple missed that consumers were attaching keyboards to its iPad tablet, but Microsoft took advantage and saw an opportunity. Now everyone else is following in its footsteps, but Microsoft is already way ahead.