PC maker Lenovo is jumping into a new product category – table PCs.
When Lenovo’s IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC lies flat, it’s a 27-inch touch-screen display that can be used by two or more people at once.
Multiple users can interact with photos, music and video or play pre-loaded games that have been customized for the Horizon by top gaming companies such as Electronic Arts and Ubisoft.
At the same time, if you prop the screen up to a vertical position – using the Horizon’s built-in stand – it automatically converts to a conventional desktop PC.
When it’s in table mode, “you can have four people around the device playing these games,” said Lenovo’s Nick Reynolds, who heads worldwide consumer product launches.
“I saw the pre-production model and actually played with it,” said technology analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates. “I thought it was great.”
Lenovo is billing the Horizon as “the first table PC” built for consumers, but technology analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group noted that Sony recently introduced a similar product – the Vaio Tap 20 – with a smaller, 20-inch screen. Also, he added, Dell recently announced plans for a device in the same vein.
Enderle called these products “a different kind of tablet, one that is used more collaboratively and around a table. ... If done right, it could be the next big thing. It’s a completely different way of using a PC.”
Lenovo is planning a series of new product announcements this week leading up to, and during, the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Lenovo is based in China but has an executive headquarters in Morrisville that employs about 2,000 workers.
Lenovo has momentum on its side. It has grown faster than any major PC maker for 12 consecutive quarters and is on the verge of becoming the undisputed No. 1 PC company worldwide. In the third quarter, depending on which research firm you consult, Lenovo was either the No. 2 or No. 1 PC maker – up from No. 7 four years ago. In the U.S. market, it ranked fourth with its highest market share ever.
Built for families
Lenovo touts that the multiuser, multitouch capabilities of its Horizon table PC enable “interpersonal computing.”
“We see this bringing family and friends together in a new environment,” Reynolds said. Accessories that come with the Horizon include four joysticks and e-dice.
Among the games that come preloaded with the Horizon are Monopoly, Raiding Company and Draw Race, as well as educational apps.
“We are looking to work with more partners and preload more games,” Reynolds said.
The Horizon also features an internal battery that allows you to move it from place to place, although it’s not exactly laptop-light. It weighs roughly 13 pounds.
The Horizon is scheduled to be available in early summer at prices starting about $1,699.
“It’s not the cheapest thing in the world,” Kay said, “but it is certainly within reason.”
Lenovo also announced several other new PCs on Sunday – including new ultrabooks (svelte, ultra-light notebook PCs), laptops and a desktop – that all come with touch screens and run Windows 8 software. Those products start coming out in February, but some won’t be available until June.
A trend for touch
Although industry-wide sales of Windows 8 touch devices have been disappointing since Microsoft introduced its new operating system at the end of October, Lenovo is convinced there is a touch screen in your future.
The bulk of the first Windows 8 devices from Lenovo and its rivals were either tablets or “convertibles” – tablets that double as laptops. But now Lenovo plans to introduce touch-screen products across its family of PC products.
Reynolds said people are starting to assume that a consumer device is a touch-screen device so that’s what Lenovo plans on delivering.
“I was using my notebook the other day and someone came over and touched the screen, like pinching on the screen, to try and expand and get closer to the image,” he said. “And they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s not touch.’ ”
“We also know,” Reynolds added, “that touch is going to come down in price as volume ramps up. So we want to be at the bleeding edge. We want to lead the market in terms of touch adoption.”
Enderle said sales of Windows 8 have been constrained by “a massive shortage” of touch screens.
“The problem isn’t the operating system but the lack of screens,” he said.
Lenovo, however, was smart enough to lock in contracts with touch screen suppliers early, which goes hand-in-hand with its strategy of offering more Windows 8 products than its competitors, Enderle said.
“Across the board, they have ... blanketed the market with a set of offerings that probably showcases Windows 8 best,” he said.