Lenovo has added some twists and turns to its next generation of tablet devices, which are among a wave of new products designed to grab a chunk of a market dominated by the Apple iPad.
Three of the four new tablets that the world’s No. 2 PC maker unveiled Tuesday – all of which are “convertibles” that function as laptops as well as tablets – feature innovative ways to configure the devices, via twists and turns, to conform to whether you’re using it as a laptop or tablet at the time.
Lenovo is based in China but has an executive headquarters in Morrisville that employs about 2,000 workers; the company also recently announced plans to manufacture PCs in the United States by adding a manufacturing line – and 115 jobs – at its distribution center in Guilford County.
Lenovo’s upcoming IdeaPad Yoga devices boast a 360-degree hinge that lets you bend the screen backward when you switch from tablet to laptop mode. Or you can fold it so that the screen stands upright for displaying visuals.
The upcoming ThinkPad Twist accomplishes the same configurations in a different way, with a screen that can be twisted 360 degrees.
“We don’t think there is any one way of doing these convertibles,” said Peter Hortensius, who as president of Lenovo’s product group heads the company’s global PC business. Consequently, Lenovo intends to let the market decide which configurations it prefers; it’s also offering a wide selection of price tags, with starting prices ranging from $599 to $1,099, and with some products aimed at consumers and others focused on the business market.
Lenovo is banking that innovation plus providing “a full range of choice” will help it stand out from the competition, Hortensius said. Lenovo is riding a wave of sales momentum and is on the verge of becoming No. 1 in worldwide PC shipments.
Hewlett-Packard and Dell also are planning to unleash new convertibles in conjunction with the release later this month of the long-awaited Windows 8 operating system from Microsoft.
Convertibles are aimed at consumers and businesses who like the convenience of tablets but also want a physical keyboard and the ability to use popular software, especially the Microsoft Office suite of products. Tablets are ultra-light, portable devices that boast long battery life and are primarily operated by touching their screens.
“What we are hearing from a lot of people is, ‘Why do I have to carry both (a tablet and a PC)?’ ” Hortensius said.
Lenovo and other PC makers – along with Microsoft and computer-chip maker Intel – have a lot riding on these next-generation tablets/convertibles. Up to now they’ve failed to gain traction in a tablet market owned by the blockbuster iPad.
Analysts believe that the new Windows 8 tablets have the potential to gain more of a following among consumers.
“Frankly, the technology is better,” said technology analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates. “The interface is pretty good.”
Moreover, Kay noted, many corporate information technology managers aren’t fans of the iPad because it’s difficult for them to support the device remotely.
‘Pent-up’ desire for Windows tablet
“There is a pent-up demand on the commercial side for a Windows tablet,” he said.
Technology analyst Charles King of Pund-IT calls Lenovo’s new devices “among the most aesthetically attractive and technologically innovative” of the new wave of tablets. “The Yoga line is the sort of thing you would expect to see from a highly innovative and very forward-looking vendor.”
The Lenovo products announced Tuesday, plus the previously announced ThinkPad Tablet 2, will debut in the U.S. market shortly. The first go on sale Oct. 26 – also the release date for Windows 8.
Lenovo is also planning a major marketing push for the products. Hortensius declined to disclose the company’s advertising budget but said it will be “our biggest launch to date.”
Kay said that the wide diversity of products being offered by Lenovo is a clever marketing strategy.
“They’re not sure – and no one is – what’s going to really work,” he said. “So what they’re doing is, they’ve got a lot of bait in the water with these different types of devices. That gives them an opportunity to pick up whatever fish are actually out there.”