Lenovo comes out swinging with table PC, hybrid ultrabooks

PC maker also unveils a mini-ultrabook

With Lenovo moving up the ranks of the global PC market, the company is looking to solidify its momentum at the International CES trade show this week.

Lenovo, which is vying with Hewlett-Packard for the top spot in the PC market, is using CES in Las Vegas to present new products, including a hybrid laptop and tablet device, a mini- ultrabook and a table PC.

"Lenovo is very experimental," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "It tries new form factors, new types of devices. Some stick, some don't. But they all contribute to the accurate impression that Lenovo is a lively company."

On Sunday, the China-based PC maker unveiled the IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC, a multi-user, multi-touch, multi-mode consumer device. It uses Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system running on Intel's Core i7 processors and Nvidia's GeForce graphics.

Lenovo wants to make computing more social, said Jay Parker, a vice president with Lenovo. The table PC, which lies flat, is designed to enable users to make computing a shared experience.

"There's this cultural phenomenon where people are using their phones or tablets individually," Parker told Computerworld. "They're all sitting there at dinner using their phones individually. There's an opportunity to bring the family back together by sharing games. Extend that to the school environment where they've started to roll out tablets but they're using them individually."

Parker doesn't see the Horizon Table PC as a computer for the enterprise but said it could replace the desktop in home or school environments. The table PC is due to be released in early summer with a starting price of $1,699.

Industry analysts have been talking about a convergence in technology - a combination of smartphones, tablets, laptops and even traditional desktops. Expect to see a mashup of these devices at CES this week.

Is the table PC a morphing of the desktop?

"People have been saying for a decade or more that the desktop is going away," Parker said. "I don't think it's going away, but certainly these new technologies are adding to it ... This certainly could replace the desktop in some environments. It's a full functioning, all-in-one PC."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, predicts that new versions of desktops will start to show up in more homes.

Lenovo showed off three new Windows 8 devices Sunday, two days before the International CES officially opens in Las Vegas.

"This form factor is in its infancy now, but given a few years, could be very popular," Moorhead said. "Microsoft kicked off the concept with the original Surface Table in 2008 and it has morphed into these portable desktops you see from Sony and now Lenovo. The future home will have many different sized displays hung on walls, in our bathrooms, on tables, or it will be the table."

According to Moorhead, the Horizon Table PC moves the form factor closer to what consumers want and, eventually, to what the enterprise will want, as well.

"This form factor will be part of the office of the future," he said. "Collaborating on one display will add richness and depth to discussions and make a meeting more of a participation activity versus a passive one."

More ultrabooks

Also Monday, Lenovo is due to take the wraps off two additions to its family of convertible laptop-tablet devices.

The ThinkPad Helix, is being touted as a high-performance ultrabook running Intel Core processors. The machine, which can perform as both a laptop and a tablet, has 10 hours of battery life, Lenovo said, and sports an 11.6-inch screen.

"It's a full business notebook," Parker said. "But the big difference is that it has a rip-and-flip screen and can be used as a tablet or a standard notebook. You can pop off the screen, and then you have a tablet. Or you can fold it back on itself and use it in tablet mode."

The Helix is expected to ship in late February with a starting price of $1,400.

Lenovo also is showing off a new version of its hybrid ultrabook, the IdeaPad Yoga 11S.

The PC maker created a lot of buzz at last year's show when it unveiled the original Yoga hybrid ultrabook.

This latest version runs Intel Core i5 processors and Windows 8 software. The 11S also has an 11.6-in. screen, which is smaller than the 13-in. screen on the original Yoga, and is .68 inches thick.

Considered a mini ultrabook, the Yoga 11S comes in gray, orange or cotton candy pink. It is due to ship in June with a starting price of $799.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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Tags consumer electronicsMicrosoftdesktop pcshardware systemsLenovotabletsPersonal TechnologyPCsHewlett-Packard

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