Lenovo celebrated the 20th anniversary of its ThinkPad line by introducing the ThinkPad Tablet 2, a 10.1-inch tablet that's Lenovo's answer to the Microsoft Surface, if not also the Apple iPad, and announcing the creation of a developer program for applications specialized for Lenovo devices.
The Tablet 2 will ship in October, following the introduction of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, which the tablet will run.
"This is the tablet that the industry has been waiting for," Dilip Bhatia, vice president and general manager of Lenovo's business unit, told journalists at a Aug. 8 event at New York City's Museum of Modern Art, which features an early ThinkPad in its permanent design collection. Lenovo bought the ThinkPad line, along with all of IBMs PC division, in 2005.
The ThinkPad Tablet 2 weighs just over a pound, measures 9.88mm thin, runs an Intel Clover Trail processor, has embedded 3G and the option of 4G, a full-size USB port, a microSD slot, a mini High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port andslid into a corner of the devicea stylus. This could almost go unnoticed, were it not for its distinctive, ThinkPad red-dotted tip.
"And it's not a fake-finger pen; this is a real pen," said Bhatia. "Truly, this tablet is designed for professionals and designed for real life."
Samsung, which in a now-crowded tablet market has established itself as the No. 2 player behind Apple, reintroduced consumers to the stylus with its Galaxy Note, an either sort-of-tablet or overly large smartphone with a 5.3-inch display. The Note sought to make the stylus cool, both by making it smarter and easier to use and tying it to applications that both complement it and enable users to add greater personalization to their content.
Samsung may have reintroduced mobile users to the stylus, but its boast-worthy features, said a Lenovo spokesperson at the event, are capabilities that Lenovo styluses have had since 1992.
In June, Microsoft potentially alienated partners such as Lenovo when it stepped out of its role as software maker and introduced the Surface tablet. And indeed, Acer CEO J.T. Wang has been quoted by the Financial Times as saying that it will "create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction."
Roger Kay, principal analyst with EndPoint Technologies told eWEEK, "The Surface set the bar for non-Apple tablets. But there's a question about what the Surface really is; is it just a way to stimulate the industry?"
If so, it seems to have worked. While Microsoft will launch a consumer-geared version of Surface in October, the ThinkPad Tablet 2 is ready for business and will even be able to run existing apps. It can be docked and attached to peripherals, as well as connected to a portable keyboard.
"Who's going to use this? Everyone. The use cases are tremendous," said Bhatia. He added, "This is a fantastic time in the industry."
A little lost behind the excitement surrounding the Tablet 2 was the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, a sub-3-pound Ultrabook that fits a 14-inch display into a 13-inch laptop design. According to Lenovo, it's the world's lightest 14-inch Ultrabook, made of a carbon fiber that's "200 percent stronger than anything out there," said Bhatia.
It will go on sale in August, Lenovo officially confirmed, at a starting price of $1,299.
As for the Lenovo Developer Program, it's the company's first such worldwide effort and is focused on creating a catalog of specialized apps that "take advantage of unique features of Lenovo's Windows 8 products," the company said in a statement.
The program, Lenovo added, will take advantage of the company's range of devices, from laptops and tablets to smartphones and televisions. Lenovo plans to offer developers support and "an easy way" to deploy and merchandise their apps.