Tablet/PC desktop universality on Zorin

Hey, peoples. It seems like tablet-hybrids is the big deal. Google going for it, Microsoft is going for it. People are starting to use them for work, people already use tablets a lot.

So it seem to me that tablet-hybrids are rapidly about kill the laptop.

This puts Linux at an interesting angle, particurarly as Linux isn't any leaing performer in the mainstream consumer culture. Linux for a long time has been mainly focused on PC, having some features making it workable on a tablet as well as having some small dedicated projects like ubuntu touch which is neat although looks a little funny.

A scary thought - looking aside from the Steamdeck possible being the platform to push a floodgate of people to linux - is that if Linux isn't ahead of the game it could become irrelevant in the tablet-hybrid scene if the community and projects aren't careful.

And a key direction is having desktop invironments designed with universality between tablet and PC in mind. That's the whole deal with Windows 11 to me at least.

I haven't gotten around to fully test Zorin16 on a tablet, but Zorin15 is pretty neat although not perfect. But I imagine ZorinOS being the flagship distro to possibly embrace this direction, particurarly when it's made to mirror the windows user experience somewhat.

But what I am really leading this to is that I'm interested in hearing people's thoughts on the subject. Like, what does this mean for Linux? Does Zorin16 do this job well? What could be done better? What makes good desktop universality? What are cool featutes that haven't been done for universality that haven't been done before?

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Tablet computers are fine for basic browsing and simple tasks or tasks which are specific and needing mobility.

But many users still need the power of a Desktop PC, be it for gaming, work - data keeping, engineering, design, writing and word processing... The WorkBench is still in high demand.
There may be some threat to Linux should the general market trend shift heavily toward Tablet Computers but... that is not as likely at this time. If there are some serious advances in how tablets work- then it could be more viable.

That said, ZorinGroup has been working on an ARM version for quite a while. It appears that Zorin OS 16 was quite a Hit, so the ZorinGroup must prioritize the help desk for Pro Users for a while- but I am sure that in short order, they will be back to work on ARM.

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I do see your point sofastrangler. You must keep in mind the limitations that those devices put on users as well.

Sure i have grown with computers, into the mobile arena that it currently resides (i am even mostly in the forum by way of my phone, of all things). But their limitations on processing, storage and upgradability have all come short of desktops. Laptops are just now reaching the power and expandability of desktops, but are still limited. Heading in the more mobile direction lessens both of these and restricts what can be accomplished.

There are many hurdles facing technology, but the likelihood of mobile making the desktop irrelevant is far from one.

On a side, mobile has helped keep people in touch, always connected. This allows people to get things accomplished, as i an now, with little effort or needing to be any specific place. But if I'm working on my app or trying to do multiple things at once, i turn to my laptop for the speed and power. I can't type 60wpm on here, may spend a half hour trying to get out what I've already thought over again and again in order to type it here. Has this really improved my productivity, or even improved my life in some way? Just because i can answer immediately, it may be more prudent to be in a better environment with the ability to access other applications and knock this response out faster.

Should they, yes and they are looking at possibilities. Will they, who knows. The Zorin Group has to keep in mind the amount of people on such devices, whether emerging technologies will replace it quickly and how long it takes to develop Zorin for the architecture and interface. Mobile is changing more quickly than desktops or laptops, without a base to work from (zorin is based on Ubuntu with many improvements), two people may not be able to keep up with the changes and keep the desktop/laptop versions stable and secure.

We will have to wait and see.

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Well said.
The weaknesses in mobile include breakability with replacability or repairability- longevity.
The other is the limitation of the process. For example, a Text message can be used to confirm a meeting time or exchange quick information. But a tablet is not the right tool for composing your thesis, the office presentation, a cover letter or an article.
You can peck at the screen for a short burst of txt spk, but you cannot write a resume on one. Not with any practicality. In a pinch, if absolutely must do so, you could do it. But it would be a painstaking process.

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This doesn't mention CAD, software development, accounting and many other professions that would be drastically changed in the negative way in order to accomplish these tasks.

Would you really want to attempt to assemble 32 tracks in an audio software on a 12 inch screen, or watch a movie edited strictly on your phone?

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To clarify, tablet hybrids are PC grade tablets that has a connectible keyboard that makes you able to both use it as a laptop or a tablet. But the defining feature is that it has a touchscreen that will be in prevalent use.

If these tablet-hybrids become what everyone has, and it seems so based on how a lot of companies put their money into this. Microsoft fully going into it with their surface products and a new windows version with a desktop designed towards working great as both a tablet and PC. These Surface products are so powerful that you can do most work-related stuff on them, even media-production.

It will lead to that Linux can feel subpar or behind the curve. But it's up to Zorin or other Linux projects to decide what they want to go for. But I think it's an interesting subject and is a thing that I'm exploring right now using linux on my own surface device that I bought because of this exact same train of though.

I think the term "Niche market" applies.

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Thank you for clarifying, but i see this as a personal opinion. Microsoft has moved hardware and os to the back burner and is focused more on micro-services (software as a service, hardware as a service, storage as a service, desktop as a service). This change may eventually make OS's as we know it obsolete.

Yes, it is a good idea for the Zorin Group to consider making installs for such devices easier and be able to support their features, but again, for two people this can be daunting. It is their option to support such a direction.

My arguments are for your comment that this is the direction of technology. I do understand your preference for such a device, and you bought one because of that. That is not everyone's mindset. Personally, i don't need a touch screen because it provides no benefit that a keyboard and mouse already provides.

We will have to wait and see the direction that the Zorin Group decides.

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You make me scratch my head lol

Edit: Not meant to be rude, just felt out of place. And I'd like to make clear that this is not a feature request, I just opened a thread to discuss the subject of desktop universality. Personally I find Zorin very usable on a tablet as is and I'm pretty content with it as it is.

I don't see any evidence that tablet hybrids are going to take over the traditional laptop market. I suspect that tablet-hybrid market will grow, but will remain a niche product for years to come.

To cut to the chase, tablet hybrids are 2-in-1 laptops with a detachable screen/keyboard. Beyond that form factor difference, tablet hybrids are nothing unique.

Microsoft Surface is a brand name. Microsoft markets tablet hybrids, 2-in-1 laptops, dual-screen small tablets, and a semi-powerful desktop under the Surface brand.

You may know what I do not, but I don't see any indication that Microsoft is "fully going into" tablet hybrids. Microsoft's Surface laptops are a generation ahead of Microsoft's Surface tablet hybrids in terms of CPU/GPU and other basics. If Microsoft were "fully going into" tablet hybrids, the product line would be the other way around as Microsoft drifted away from laptops.

Windows 11's UI changes work well with both a touchscreen/touchpad UI and a traditional keyboard/touchpad/mouse UI.

However, creating a "touch" UI does not seem to have been Microsoft's primary driver in revising the UI, according to Microsoft's statements on the issue. Microsoft developed the centered UI after a lot of research, and according to Microsoft, the centered UI was developed to accommodate large (27" and up) displays, where UI elements off to the sides are not "front and center".

In general, that's correct, but that depends on the Surface.

The Surface Laptop 4 for Business (13" or 15" screen, AMD Ryzen 5/7 or Intel i5/i7, onboard graphics in each case, 8/16/32 RAM, 256/512GB/1TB SSD, 48WH battery) is as capable as most mid-range business laptops. The Microsoft Surface Book 3, the current high-end tablet hybrid offering, has similar specs, albeit a generation behind.

But other Surface laptops and tablet hybrids fall short of that standard, and are marginal for serious work.

Other OEM's offering tablet hybrids are all over the place in terms of specifications, but I think that it is fair to say that most tablet hybrids marketed by an OEM have lower specifications than business laptops marketed by that OEM. I haven't done extensive research on this issue, so I could be wrong.

I use Dell Optiplex Micro desktops and Dell Latitude laptops (non-touch in both cases) and don't have experience with tablet hybrids or touchscreens, except for the touchscreen on my iPhone. My husband uses a Surface Book, and I occasionally use it to fix things when Microsoft issues a Windows update that breaks something (you would think that Microsoft could manage Windows updates that didn't routinely break Surface devices, but ...).

That's the extent of my experience, though. So I'm probably not the best person to be looking to for an opinion about changes Linux should make to accommodate tablet hybrids.

The basics (touchscreen support, touchpad support, onscreen keyboards, appropriate display resolutions and so on) are already in place for the most part (scaling remains an issue), and have been for years. The continuing issues with OEM-specific drivers (often not available for Linux) are also, unfortunately, already in place.

What isn't in place is more general, and applicable to both laptops and tablet hybrids.

Linux is not optimally designed for laptop and tablet hybrid use. Battery life has gotten better as the kernel developed over time, but most users seem to get about 75% of the battery life running Linux in contrast to Windows. Power management is also an issue. Linux distros seem to run materially hotter than Windows on laptops because the kernel isn't yet well-tuned to slow down or shut down cores during use. Display scaling remains a problem for many distros, and for smaller displays that can be a serious issue.

I realize that many users run Linux on their laptops, and battery life, power management issues and display/scaling issues are not the end of the world. But it seems to me that Linux needs to catch up with Windows in these areas if Linux is going to level the playing field for laptops and tablet hybrids.

Your questions are fun to think about, but you know much more than I do about tablet hybrid use.

You have obviously been thinking about these questions, speculating about the future.

So my question is what changes would you make to Zorin, looking ahead to Zorin 17? And/or Linux in general? Do you think that Ubuntu or Elementary OS, with centered layouts, are more usable on a tablet hybrid than a left-orientated layout like Zorin's Standard appearance? Would you simplify the Zorin UI to accommodate smaller screens? And so on. I'm curious about what you think.

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I had an interesting talk with a man I mentored years ago, now in senior IT management for a Fortune 10 company. He told me that the company will be moving a large chunk of their computing environment to Windows 365 over the next few years. As the company sees things, the move will reduce hardware refresh/replacement cost, reduce IT management cost, and significantly increase end-to-end security.

I'm reading a lot of material of a similar nature in recent months, and I suspect that you are right about the direction in which our computing environment is heading.

Microsoft realized they were losing funds and support by the customers due to the ease and availability of Google docs and the many services included in aws. There has been some mention in the news, but when searching for help desk positions and learning development, this became all to clear.

The only thing not really being addressed is if the net goes down, as I'm sure you have seen the scramble that Sony, bungie and many others perform when their servers or network fail.

Online is great, you reach most of the people, but it isn't infallible and it doesn't reach everyone.

Sure, it makes os cost drop, but a standalone copy of software is far more reliable. I'm sad to see everything moving toward the internet. Especially since the government, though saying it's a necessity, refuses to step on any isp and make network access affordable for all. Sure, the stipend of requiring permitted access at low bandwidth is a step in the right direction, but it is a limited offer, a bandaid, for the issue of access. It's far from a long term solution.

Yeah, I'm thinking in the long run. The tablet-hybrids are not taking over things next year, but we see a big move towards that and general consumers are also opting that way. It makes the device more universal in use, and in schools tablets are already a mainstay instead of school laptops. The tablets in use usually are ipads or chrome devices.

With regards to universality I think it's a good move strategically over having tablet specific linuxes as it makes a lower bar of entry. And by lower bar of entry is that there is more of a chance that people will try it as it's closer in experience and you have more chances to think about it. But this is more of a direction for a flagship linux like Ubuntu, Zorin and Elementary. Doesn't matter that much with smaller ones.

It also makes it more possible that the flagship linux gets used in the mainstream as it's more likely that let's say Ubuntu is used on the majority of devices and has brand recognition.

But to me it's just interesting to think about what would make a good universal desktop for tablet and PC. Does gnome do it right or does ubuntu touch do it right. When it comes to ubuntu touch I think it looks and works very unprofessional and wonky although it can be practical. Windows 11 is a good path, and I think gnome has been ahead of the game for some time now.

Incidentally a friend of mine is working on a game engine/editor designed for being used on a tablet because he is looking at the trend of gaming towards mobile and tablets.

It will be interesting to see. I haven't had the possibility to try Zorin16 on a tablet, but I've tried zorin15. It has some wonkyness, scaling problems for the virtual keyboard, having to customize the touch settings for a better browsing experience. But I think it's overall good, but as Zorin kind of markets itself towards tablets it will be interesting to try zorin16 and see where the zorin project takes things.

Many are called by few are chosen, as it is said.

Microsoft developed Windows 8 as a UI that would serve the needs of both desktop and tablet. Canonical developed Unity as a UI that would serve the needs of both desktop and tablet. Both were flops, to say the least.

The problem, it seems to me, is that attempts to create a "universal desktop" are doomed either to overextend and or lose focus, resulting in a mess.

Any number of games (Crash Dive, for example, see screenshots below) deploy different user interfaces for tablets and desktops, and both interfaces work well on their respective platforms.

Touchscreen UI:

Mouse UI:

But trying to create a single UI that serves the needs of every display platform from an 8" tablet to a 13" tablet hybrid or laptop, to a 32" UHD desktop monitor, and that accommodates the keyboard/mouse interface and the touchscreen/touchpad interface with equal success strikes me as an endeavor with little chance of success, if not a fool's errand.

It seems to me that OS UI designers should follow the path now well trodden by website designers -- detect what is being used and adjust the UI accordingly.

XML, a web design language that separates content from presentation, does that, and it is rare to find a website these days that even tries to use a "one size fits all" UI.

Unity tried to be a "one size fits all" UI, and Ubuntu users turned up their noses, rightly so. Windows 8 tried to mush two different UI's -- one tablet, one desktop -- into a single OS and bombed.

I don't think that a "universal desktop" can exist. If I were designing an DE, I'd try to figure out a way to follow the path of web design, separate content from presentation, and develop a DE that presented differently for different hardware platforms.

I'll be convinced when I see my cousin (a farmer with fingers the size of most people's thumbs) successfully navigate Win11 on an 10-inch Surface Go touchscreen display. I laugh just thinking about it. He does just fine with his smartphone, which has an interface designed for the form factor.

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I like to check against reasonable statistics when I can, so as to approach a talking point with less ignorance of my own.
But net searches I have done yield no statistics that demonstrate that both industry and consumers are veering toward tablet or tablet hybrids.
I can find some opinion pieces that promote tablet hybrids, but that is certainly not a qualifier. Do you mind if I ask what it is you are using to base your statement on?

I did find a few articles that certain schools in certain cities have opted for tablet hybrids. This makes a lot of sense:

  • They are low power.
  • They are portable.
  • They are simple.
  • They cost less than a larger, heavier and more powerful notebook.

To a school, they do not need the students having Powerful (and distracting) computers at their fingertips. Only the simplest and most basic for study. In fact, less access is preferred, much like having Parental Controls; If the student is able to play Fortnite on the thing, they won't be using it for its intended purpose. Lower costs save money and why pay more for more than you need?
That's a Niche Market.
This certainly does not mean that the General Market is veering toward Tablet Hybrids.

Currently, Linux holds about 2% of the worlds Operating System Market. Mac holds about within the range of 10% to 15% with some variance. Microsoft holds the rest. The highest hold by Microsoft was 92%. Currently it stands around 78%. But that is still, by far... The Dominant System.

I've not found any statistics at all. I suspect that is because the tracking/reporting companies (e.g. Statistica) don't track whether or not a tablet/laptop device has a detachable keyboard.

But the term/concept "tablet hybrid" itself is, while precise, is inadequate to measure market share of "convertible" devices that function both as laptop and as tablet.

Softstangler used this definition, and it is common: "To clarify, tablet hybrids are PC grade tablets that has a connectible keyboard that makes you able to both use it as a laptop or a tablet. But the defining feature is that it has a touchscreen that will be in prevalent use."

The definition turns on two factors: (a) "PC-grade" (that is, excludes Android tablets) and (b) detachable screen/keyboard. The definition excludes 2-in-1 laptops that can function both as a laptop and a tablet, sometimes described as "convertible laptops" or "hybrid laptops".

To the extent that manufacturers follow market demand, tablet hybrids would seem to be a losing proposition.

A number of OEM's sold tablet hybrids in that past but seem to have since abandoned that form factor in favor of the 2-in-1 form factor. Microsoft manufactures Surface devices with detachable keyboards, and Acer manufactures the Switch Alpha 12, but otherwise the larger OEM's don't seem to offer tablet hybrids. I checked Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Asus websites and didn't find that form factor (e.g. the Dell XPS 12 XPS9250, the HP Spectre X360 series, and the Lenovo Ideapad MIIX 700 series) being sold at present.

Did the articles give you any sense of what tablet hybrids are being adopted? Are the devices Windows, Android or Chrome OS based, and who makes them? I'm curious, because I have some personal familiarity with school devices, and the tablet hybrid isn't a form factor that I've seen used -- Android/iOS tablets for younger (K-5) students and Chromebooks for older (6-12) students, but not tablet hybrids.

In any event, I don't know that the form factor (tablet hybrid or 2-in-1) makes a lot of difference to the thrust of @sofastrangler's question -- if and how should Zorin and Linux distros in general design the UI to support both desktop and tablet modes?

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Your familiarity is the same as mine... but here are some links:

There're also several YouTube videos - I won't link them but the common title is: BEST BACK TO SCHOOL DEVICE? Laptop VS Hybrid 2-1 VS

I realize your statement here contradicts the above links:

You made that statement after I looked up some information and after I made my post...

@Aravisian Thanks for the links. I think that the articles support your views (and mine) about the market share of tablet hybrids. Two of the articles (2014 and 2017) are from the era when tablet hybrids were still manufactured by major OEM's, and the 2021 Techradar article discusses 2-in-1 laptops rather than tablet hybrids.

Yeah, I did. I didn't focus on the fact that "PC Grade" in @sofastrangler's definition excluded Android tablets until this morning.

I was running along the line ("To cut to the chase, tablet hybrids are 2-in-1 laptops with a detachable screen/keyboard. Beyond that form factor difference, tablet hybrids are nothing unique.") that "tablet hybrids" were Windows 2-in-1 equivalents, without paying attention to the differentiation between Android/Windows operating systems.

I'm not sure whether @sofastrangler intended this or not, but I think that the "PC Grade" in the definition necessarily excludes Android devices. He may clarify the issue.

Edit/Update: Because I was curious, I took a look at Best Buy's computer inventory to see if I could get a sense of 2-in-1 market share.

Best Buy lists 495 Windows laptop models for sale. Of that 495, 284 (57%) are listed as "Touch Screen", and of the "Touch Screen" laptops, 157 (55%) are listed as "2-in-1 Design". That suggests that about a third of the Windows laptops sold by Best Buy are 2-in-1 laptops. Microsoft Surface laptops with detachable keyboards are included in the "2-in-1 Design" category.

I recognize that my look was not, in any sense, scientific, but it does give some sense of what is being marketed to consumers in the United States and Canada.

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@Aravisian

Cool discussion! 2/1 devices is a interesting name for it, although I feel hybrid is simpler to say and encompasses the same meaning. But if most stores and stuff call it 2/1 then that is what we must call it as well.

With regards to "PC-grade" I think that in the long run it is what is going to make it prevalent. Because that means it can be used at a low tier casual use as well as a professional or high tier use. And that is necessary for it to take out the laptop (The laptop might still exist though)

And regarding school. At the moment ipads is the device all students get in elementary school, middle school and high school in Scandinavia atm. The kids are getting used to it and are likely to keep buying tablets as they are older.

Chromebooks and other chrome devices seems to have gotten ultra popular for school use and they have a 1/2 direction.

And finally "doing both means doing both badly"

In some sense that can be correct, but I think it's possible although more difficult. The gnome system seems to be pulling it off pretty good so far. I don't think universal desktops are the ideal solution but I like to have a pragmatist attitude. And I think if 2/1 devices are taking over then having some flagship linuxes focus on universal desktop is better than having seperate tablet distros. Means a distro will have more resources to do a good effort, brandrecognition for 2/1 tablets, low barrier to entry as the popular distros will work with 2/1 tablets and they don't have to research for a distro.

I think some ground stuff that can be done

  • More space between icons and stuff to click
  • Inbuilt gestures in most software and on the desktop
  • Palm-rejection built in to most apps and the desktop
  • touch friendly sliders
  • Good touch-based way of handling open programs
  • Not UI, but battery-saving
  • Locked screen that don't pause processes and that let's for example stop and start media
    (I'll add more when more comes to mind)

But maybe more importantly having a good standard for 2/1 UI that opensource software projects can follow.

But I'm not sure about all these things in practice, and therefore why I'm interested in hearing other people's thoughts heheh

Windows 11 is taking an interesting approach, neither attempting a universal UI for both desktop use and tablet use nor creating two distinct "modes".

Windows 10 Tablet Mode has been deprecated, and instead the Windows 10 UI will subtly change when a laptop 2-in-1 computer screen is flipped back on itself and when the keyboard is detached from a tablet hybrid:

(1) icons in the Start Menu and elsewhere will enlarge and space out;
(2) buttons and menu-related text will enlarge;
(3) an enhanced keyboard, more touch friendly and with embedded shortcuts for the clipboard, gifs and other content, will be substituted for the keyboard used on the desktop;
(4) additional screen-touch gestures will become available; and
(5) screen management subtly changes so that windows are populate prescribed screen positions and are shadowed by a predictive "glass" layer so that a user can see where the screen is headed if the user elects to move the window.

Microsoft documents have a lot more detail about all of this than I've been able to put into the list, but I think that Microsoft's approach -- a dynamic UI depending on use rather than an attempt at a unitary universal UI for both desktop and tablet use or different UI's for desktop and tablet use (think Windows 10 Tablet Mode) -- is fascinating.

It is an approach I hadn't thought about, but it is so interesting that I'm hoping that Microsoft nails it, even though I don't use a 2-in-1 or touchscreen and don't intend to in the future.

It almost makes me wish I had a 2-in-1 just to see what it does.

I'm not sure what happens with "Touch Screen" laptops -- laptops that are touch enabled but not intended to run as tablets on flip or detach because they don't flip or detach. But I avoid touchscreens because of the glare, so I don't have a touchscreen to use, either.

Another change that has been flying under the radar is that Windows 11, apparently, is going to allow individual Android apps to run in the operating system. It seems to me that will be an advantage for Windows 11 as a tablet. I don't know if that is possible in Linux or not.

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