Lenovo gets flexible with new Windows 8 laptops

Lenovo today unveiled several new laptops that it hopes will appeal to customers looking for a more tablet-like experience.

Peter Hortensius, president of Lenovo's product group, and David Schmoock, president of Lenovo's North American operations, demo the company's new Windows RT convertible PC at a New York event.
(Credit: Rich Brown/CNET)

During a New York event, the Chinese computer giant, which passed Dell a year ago to become the world's second-biggest PC maker by shipments, introduced four "convertibles" that use Microsoft's new Windows operating system. Such devices — with names like the IdeaTab Lynx and the IdeaPad Yoga 13 — twist and transform from notebooks into tablets.

"What people want is flexibility," David Schmoock, Lenovo's president of North America, said in an interview with CNET. "People need, at the end of the day, a fully functioning PC as their primary device. But they also want the flexibility to use a tablet."

The company unveiled three devices that use Intel chips and run Windows 8. It also demonstrated an 11-inch computer that uses an Nvidia chip and runs Windows RT.

Lenovo expects the devices to help bridge the gap between PCs and tablets. That's important for the company, which has been expanding in the computer market, even as rivals look to higher margin areas, like business storage products. Lenovo continues to post strong growth, largely owing to its exposure in China, but it's not completely immune to a slowdown in demand from consumers.

The overall PC market has waned of late, as consumers, cautious about the global economy, hold off on PC purchases in favour of mobile devices. International Data Corporation (IDC) projected in August that global PC shipments would rise just 0.9 percent this year. Computer makers are counting on new, thin-and-light devices and the introduction of Microsoft's latest Windows software to reinvigorate sales.

Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, said that Lenovo was hedging its bets with different PC models, like convertibles.

"They're trying to cover the gamut of form factors that might succeed," he said. "Lenovo doesn't really know what will win, and neither does anyone else."

The Windows RT device, ThinkPad Yoga 11, will launch in December, as will the IdeaTab Lynx. Executives said that the later launch date for the Windows RT device is because it wasn't complete quite as early as the Yoga 13 device, which uses Windows 8 and runs on an Intel chip.

"We have a product readiness cycle, and that particular [Windows RT] product, we felt, was not quite ready," Peter Hortensius, director of Lenovo's global product group, said in an interview with CNET.

He said that Lenovo was putting a bigger emphasis on the Yoga 13 in North America and wanted to release it earlier. The Yoga 11, which uses Windows RT and an Nvidia chip, will be pushed more in Asia and to be released there in mid-November, several weeks before its North American launch, he said. The Yoga 13 will be released in Asia about at the same time, Hortensius added.

"Traditionally, Asia always gravitates more to ultra-portables," Hortensius said. "North America prefers 14-, 15- and 16-inch screens."

Microsoft declined to comment.

Convertible devices are nothing new, but they've never really caught on. Apple's CEO Tim Cook earlier this year knocked the idea of a MacBook-iPad hybrid device, saying that such convergence is a "compromise" to the end user.

"Anything can be forced to converge, but the problem is that products are about trade-offs, and you begin to make trade-offs to the point where what you have left, doesn't please anyone," Cook said. "You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going be pleasing to the user."

Still, PC makers hope that the new touch capabilities that are enabled by Windows 8/RT will make convertible devices more appealing to users.

Via CNET.com

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