Lenovo Tablets Aim at Consumer, Business Markets

Lenovo's new tablets run both Google Android and Windows 7, and are being positioned as viable competitors in both the consumer and business spheres.

Lenovo is plunging into the tablet market with three new devices that run Google Android and Windows 7.

Unlike other tablet manufacturers, which seem dedicated to challenging the Apple iPad with devices aimed primarily at the consumer market, Lenovo seems keen on tailoring its offerings to both the consumer and business spheres.

Lenovo's tablets include the IdeaPad Tablet P1, which features a 1.5GHz Intel processor powering Windows 7, and the IdeaPad Tablet K1, whose dual-core 1GHz processor from Nvidia supports Google Android 3.1. Both 10.1-inch devices are aimed at consumers, although Lenovo is also positioning the P1 as a business tool. The K1 includes some 40 preloaded apps, including Amazon's Kindle app and Documents To Go, along with a proprietary social-networking app called SocialTouch.

While the upcoming Windows 8 is expected to be fully optimized for the tablet form factor (and support system-on-a-chip architecture, in particular ARM-based systems), Windows 7 does not have a substantial presence in the U.S. tablet market, despite its support for touch screens. That being said, some business users who need Windows to the exclusion of other systems, and who want a relatively lightweight tablet, could gravitate to such an offering.

Lenovo's third device is a 10.1-inch ThinkPad tablet, also powered by an Nvidia dual-core 1GHz processor, which runs Google Android 3.1. The ThinkPad offers front and rear cameras (2 megapixels and 5 megapixels, respectively), an optional keyboard dock and 8 hours' battery life.

In a bid to appeal to consumer audiences, Lenovo claims its Android tablets are the first certified for Netflix, which could possibly sway some cinephiles who use the devices primarily as portable entertainment hubs. The K1 and the ThinkPad can access Android Market and Lenovo's App Shop, which is billed as an online storefront for applications tested specifically for those tablets.

But Lenovo's always had its center of gravity in the business realm, and its tablets' other features seem tailor-made for beleaguered IT administrators struggling to integrate the touch-screen devices more seamlessly into their company's daily workflow. The ThinkPad offers layered data security, for example, coupled with business partner solutions such as anti-theft software and Citrix's virtual application support. The IdeaPad P1 comes with Microsoft Security Essentials,

Unlike other tablets on the market, Lenovo is also emphasizing the optional use of a stylus-referred to as a "digitizer pen"-as an input. The company is pricing the 16GB ThinkPad at $509 with the pen (and $479 without); the 32GB, WiFi-only ThinkPad with pen will retail for $589. All variations of the device will apparently hit U.S. store shelves sometime in August.

The 32GB IdeaPad Tablet K1 will retail for $499 and also be generally available in the United States in August. The IdeaPad Tablet P1 will reach market sometime in the fourth quarter.

Lenovo faces substantial competition in its bid to enter the tablet space. In addition to the Apple iPad, devices such as Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad are bidding for consumers' dollars. However, those other tablets have yet to replicate the iPad's success, despite massive advertising campaigns. Lenovo's challenge will be to somehow leverage its brand presence in ways that make its tablets a viable alternative for both consumers and businesses.

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