Wednesday, 20 July 2011 22:21

Lenovo's Tablet threesome, but no Android/Windows merger

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Lenovo has announced three new tablets, with two running Android 3.1 Honeycomb on Nvidia Tegra 2 processors and a third running Windows 7 with an unspecificed 1.5GHz Intel processor - are these all but placeholders until Windows 8?

Lenovo, which through IBM had a ThinkPad long before Apple had its iPad, has introduced three new tablets, with both Androids due in the third quarter and the Windows 7 model due in the fourth. 

These tablets are an IdeaPad K1 with Android 3.1 Honeycomb and 'certified Netflix streaming', a ThinkPad with the same Android version but no Netflix certifcate, and an IdeaPad P1 running Windows 7, which needs no Netflix certificate in the first place.

The only tablet announced for release thus far in Australia is the K1, and for most of us Aussies without US addresses and VPNs in place, Netflix streaming is, sadly, meaningless.

What Lenovo has done to differentiate its Android tablet from some others is to preload 40 apps, including (in the US, anyway) those from Netflix, Amazon, Adobe, Electronic Arts, Rovio, Zinio, Dataviz, and others (which Lenovo says is over US $50 in value)', and includes 'favourites like Need for Speed Shift, Angry Birds, Kindle reading app and Documents to Go'.

No doubt our app selection will be almost identical, presumably leaving out US specific apps like Netflix.

There's also a social networking app called 'SocialTouch' which lets you access your 'entire network of friends and social sites all in one place', effectively creating a 'one-stop social connection'.

Its specs sound like any other Honeycomb tablet: Android 3.1, 1280x800 HD resolution, 5 megapixel camera on the back and 2 megapixels on the front, a weight of 730 grams, Bluetooth, 802.11 Wi-Fi, Flash 10.3 and a mini HDMI port.

There's also Lenovo's similarly named 'App Shop' which openly riffs on Apple's 'App Store'.

Lenovo's press release states that 'Users can access hundreds of thousands of apps in Android Market and apps tested exclusively for premium function on the IdeaPad Tablet K1 in the Lenovo App Shop.'

The press release also states that: The 'Lenovo App Shop [is] a unique app marketplace, which features popular applications that have been tested specifically for Lenovo IdeaPad and ThinkPad Tablets. The Lenovo App Shop offers apps within a broad range of categories including music, movies, books, productivity, social networking, weather, printing and more.'

If that's true, then it appears to be the first time any company has gone to the trouble of testing 'hundreds of thousands of apps' on Honeycomb to see which ones have 'premium function', something that presumably means smooth compatibility with the larger tablet experience over the smaller smartphone screen.

We'll have to see what users say about Lenovo's idea of 'premium function' and 'hundreds of thousands' when the tablet appears in September for Aussies and for those in the US now happy to place an online order, with general US availability in August.

Australian prices are quoted as being AUD $569 for a 16GB Wi-Fi version while the 16GB Wi-Fi with 3G will sell for AUD $729.

The 32GB Wi-Fi model will sell for AUD $679, while the 32GB version with Wi-Fi and 3G will be AUD $809.

In the US, the 32GB model is slated to sell at US $499, but whether this includes 3G is unclear.

The ThinkPad and IdeaPad P1 models continue on page two, please read on'¦


Then there's the ThinkPad Tablet with Android, which Lenovo says is 'built for business'.

It has an optional digitizer pen, taking us into the stylus territory pioneered by Windows tablets, a full size USB port, a full size SD port and a mini-HDMI port.

There's also an optional 'Thinkpad quality Keyboard Folio Case with optical trackpoint', matching they keyboard and mouse options that some other Android tablets sport.

Additional layers of security are added to the ThinkPad Android to keep business IT managers happy, with anti-theft software from Computrace, virtual desktop support with Citrix Receiver, LanDesk Technology and Good's secure email technology.

Although you've got the same 1280x800 res display, this one's covered in Corning's Gorilla Glass and has a 178-degree viewing angle thanks to its IPS display.

Documents to Go provides Microsoft Office document compatibility for opening and editing files, while that optional digitizer lets you jot notes which can automatically convert to text.

The ThinkPad has a 'file copy utility' to sharing media easier, sounding like some kind of simplified file manager. There's also 2GB of free cloud storage, and an ability to automatically 'sync key files and folders' every time the ThinkPad Android is plugged into a Windows 7 PC.

The ooVoo app allows video chatting and SocialTouch is also installed, and the whole thing is backed by Lenovo's business-class support services. 

Due in Q3 worldwide, local pricing is still yet to be unveiled, but US pricing is set at US $479 for a 16GB ThinkPad with Wi-Fi, and US $590 with the digitizer pen, while the 32GB Wi-Fi model with digitizer pen is US $589, with 3G models to 'become available' after launch. The ThinkPad keyboard and trackpoint is US $99, US citizens can order it from early August.

Then there's the IdeaPad P1 that will run Windows 7 - but sadly with no dual Android option.

Please read on to page three for more, along with some thoughts on Windows 8, tablet optimisation and iPad/MacBook Air hybrids!


Lenovo's last tablet, due in Q4 at at unspecified price, will run Windows 7 on an unspecified 1.5GHz Intel processor.

Promising to be '14.5mm thin' and weigh 'less than 2lbs', which is 907 grams, running the Windows apps you know, having full Adobe Flash support and HD playback, a multi-touch screen and pre-loaded Microsoft Security Essentials, Lenovo says this tablet 'offers portability, power and versatility for the office, in the home and on-the-go.'

Unfortunately, it also offers Windows 7, which is very impatiently waiting for an upgrade to the far finger friendlier Windows 8, even though the Windows 7 edition seems to still have no concessions towards fingertip friendliness.

Windows 7 can, like Vista, XP and probably others before it, can have window buttons, slider bars and some menu items increased in size, and while this does present more of a visual disconnect when used in standard mouse and keyboard mode, it would make fingertip control that much easier.

Why Microsoft hasn't enabled some simple switch that enables larger slider bars, buttons and more and back to the 'normal' size in the blink of an eye for tablet users thus far is a mystery, especially when the damn software is already capable of it.

Thus, I can only hope that the 1.5GHz processor proves to be something decent, better than Atom, and dual-core, and that the system actually runs nice and fast.

I also hope the system can run Windows 8 smoothly, because it sounds like it would make a great tablet for that OS, if only it was available as yet. When the rumoured beta of Windows 8 arrives later this year, there could well be a ton of current tech-savvy Windows tablet users taking the plunge to test Microsoft's first true tablet optimised OS, blending tablet apps as we know them with a seamless Windows 7 interface to seamlessly run traditional desktop apps.

I sure wish that Apple would release an iPad and MacBook Air hybrid, giving me the best of both worlds in the one device.

Until Apple does that, Microsoft will get there first with Windows 8.

Finally, Lenovo could have included a Windows 7 tablet that also seamlessly ran Android - at the same time if desired, switching between the two environments at the touch of a button, rather than booting into them separately.

This would have been an amazing tablet - but we did not get that, and clearly, it would be more expensive, especially if it needed both an Intel processor and an Nvidia Tegra 2, but why not? Such a dual-OS tablet could prove the perfect anti-iPad device.

Even more so when Windows 8 tablets arrive - I'd certainly be interested in a tablet that ran twin OSes simultaneously sans virtualisation.

But maybe that's just me. Until then, Lenovo has a couple of Android tablets that have their own unique selling points versus everyone elses, against the iPad 2 that is still eating Android Honeycomb's dust, and a Windows 7 tablet that is just screaming out to have its Windows 7 immediately wiped upon launch and the beta version of Windows 8 immediately installed instead.

It's just a shame it's all still several months away for most of the rest of the world, as Apple slowly gears up internally to release the iPad 3, potentially at the same time Microsoft has been rumoured to be releasing Windows 8 early, in Q2 of next year.

Android tablet makers: copy Lenovo's app shop initiative to really help highlight tablet apps, or you might find Windows 8 breathing down one side of your neck come next year, with Apple's iPad 3 breathing even more heavily down the other!

 


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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