After a series of legal wrangles derailed the 2003 release of the Xentex Flip-Pad, a dual-screen laptop with independently-pivoting screens, former Xentex founder and CEO Jeff Batio has climbed back on the horse and is preparing to launch an updated version. The If Convertible is a mobile device that flips and folds to transform from a dual-screen ultrabook to a tablet, with one screen also detaching to serve as a smartphone.
A decade of technological advances has allowed Batio to shrink the size of his concept from a bulky laptop with two 13.3-inch displays to a much more compact device sporting two 7-inch displays. Although the choice of screen technology is yet to be finalized, Batio says each display will pack 1920 x 1080p resolution and come together to provide a total of over 12-inches of combined screen real estate.
In ultrabook mode, the device looks like two undersized laptops placed side by side that share a common, full-sized keyboard. In this mode, the screens can be used to form one display, or two independent displays. One of the displays can also be flipped around to face the opposite direction, which could come in handy for presentations or two-player games.
Rotating the screens and folding the split keyboard allows the If Convertible to transform into a tablet, while the right screen – or "Slingshot" – becomes a smartphone when detached from the base. The left display remains attached to the keyboard base at all times.
The choice of CPU and GPU is also yet to be finalized, but Batio says the base will be powered by a multicore x86 processor, while the detachable Slingshot will pack "the fastest multi-core processor in a mobile device." The base will run Windows 8 (an Ubuntu version will also be available), while the Slingshot will run on Android.
Both the base and the Slingshot will have their own battery, with the Slingshot powered by a 3,000 mA battery and the base to pack a "large capacity system battery," which will come together for a total of 18 hours of up time. Both will also have 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage each, along with SD card slots supporting cards of up to 128 GB capacity, for a potential total of 512 GB.
The Slingshot will also have a front-facing camera for video chat and a rear-facing camera for taking snaps. The rear camera will range from 13- to 41-megapixels depending on the model and come with a Carl Zeiss lens and Xenon flash.
Both components will also have their own LTE antenna, with Batio touting the ability to seamlessly use a single data plan across a variety of devices as a major selling point. A removable Bluetooth headset can also be found in the base, along with USB, HDMI and Ethernet ports.
When folded up for transport, the If Convertible weighs under 1 lb (0.45 kg) and measures 6.1 in (155.5 mm) wide and 4.3 in (107.9 mm) long. In ultrabook mode with the screens folded down, the device stands 0.5 in (12.7 mm) high at the rear, tapering down to 0.3 in (9.5 mm) at the front. From this, we can calculate that the device will measure somewhere around 0.8 to 1 in (22.2 to 25.4 mm) deep when folded up.
"Ten years [after the Xentex Flip-Pad Voyager], with the advances in mobile computing technology, the If Convertible is truly the right product at the right time,” says Batio. "We look forward to impacting the mobile computing landscape by developing truly personalized devices that increase productivity while simplifying lives.
Whether the Xentex Flip-Pad would have been a success if it had been released in 2003 is something we'll never know, but in 2013 the If Convertible is entering a much more competitive market. Not only have laptops become lighter and more compact and tablets exploded onto the scene, but the line between the two have been blurred by devices such as the Microsoft Surface, ASUS Eee Pad Transformer and Eee Pad Slider and Lenovo Yoga. Whether the If Convertible's unique design and detachable Slingshot are enough for it to hold its own against such established players is something that we'll be watching with interest.
Batio has founded a new company called Idealfuture to produce the If Convertible and has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help make it a reality. Tiers range from US$649 for an Ubuntu/Android model, $799 for the cheapest Windows/Android model, up to $1,299 for a Windows/Android model with choice of finish, carry case and protective cover. Even if the campaign goal isn't reached, Idealfuture will collect all funds pledged and says it guarantees to fulfill all orders by July 2014.
Batio introduces the If Convertible in the following video.