Lenovo IdeaPad U1 tablet – it’s real, and it’s out soon

Lenove IdeaPad U1 hybrid computer / tablet computer

The Lenovo IdeaPad U1 is both a tablet computer and a notebook computer, and is probably the most interesting computer release of the year.

Lenovo is calling the IdeaPad U1 a hybrid computer, and rightly so. Users have the choice of using it as a conventional style of notebook computer, or, they can remove the screen and use it as a pure table-style computer, a la the Apple iPad. It’s a brilliant idea, taking away the need to carry around a keyboard attachment, instead being able to use a real keyboard when you have a need to heavily number or word crunch.

Lenovo IdePad U1 hybrid computer / tablet computer

The Lenovo IdeaPad U1 in its laptop mode

So yes, it’s two computers in one. As Matt Kohut, Lenovo’s Worldwide Competitive Analyst says on his Inside the Box blog:

This magic is possible because this computer is actually two computers. The bottom half contains a Core 2 processor, standard HDD, memory, and battery which runs Windows 7. The top half has a 1GHz ARM processor with its own dedicated memory, storage, and battery. Running on the slate portion of is a version of Linux with the same “Me” centric interface that is found on our just-announced Skylight smartbook. Unlike Windows, this is a task based interface and has web, Facebook, YouTube, calendar, and other functions in an easy-to-navigate “six up” grouping.

When the two halves are joined, web tasks are actually running simultaneously on both halves. (For you techies, I don’t know all of the implementation details of how it works and how the discrepancies in processor performance are handled – it is early hardware after all.) When joined, the PC is smart enough to share resources like batteries, ports, and storage. Separating and docking is very fast. The team has a design goal that the switch between modes should happen in three seconds or less. Any more and the end user loses patience.

Not bad at all! And the Lenovo IdeaPad U1 is not a concept design, it is down for a Northern Hemisphere summer release.

Taking a leaf out of the Apple iPhone playbook, Lenovo is releasing a Software Development Kit, allowing developers to make their own widgets/apps. Where Lenovo leave the Apple playbook, well more than leave it really, the playbook is thrown in the corner and pointed and sniggered at, is that the U1 will support Flash. As Kohut says on his blog, “Since 1/2 of the web runs on Flash, we knew having that was pretty important.”

Video demonstration

Enough words, let’s have a video showing us around the Lenovo IdeaPad U1. Press play, step back, watch, listen to the soundtrack and get a little funk grind or interpretive dance happening. Enjoy!

Specifications

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo in laptop mode, Qualcomm Snapdragon™ ARM processor in tablet mode
  • 3G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
  • Operating system: Windows 7 as laptop, Linux Skylight as tablet
  • 11.6 inch resistive, multi-touch touchscreen
  • RAM: 4GB as laptop, 512MB as tablet
  • Hard drive(s): 128GB HDD as laptop; 16GB solid state drive as tablet
  • Battery life: 2 batteries, 1 x base, 1 x tablet. When separated, battery life of the tablet is about 4 – 5 hours. In laptop mode, the batteries combine and give up to 8 hours.
  • Dimensions: 292 x 205 x 13 mm (W x D x H)

UPDATE 31 MAY, 2010: Lenovo have announced it is not releasing the U1 as described above. More information on this at Lenovo IdeaPad U1 hybrid computer shelved.

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