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Lenovo's Thinkpad 2: Microsoft's Nightmare - or Dream?

Lenovo's Thinkpad 2: Microsoft's Nightmare - or Dream?

Lenovo's Thinkpad may be just what Microsoft wanted from its OEMs all along. Although it stirred things up by announcing its own plans to enter the tablet market with the Surface, perhaps its main goal was to goose manufacturers into coming up with better designs. "Surface was created because what Microsoft saw coming from its OEMs was crap," said tech analyst Rob Enderle.

By Richard Adhikari
08/09/12 2:55 PM PT

Earlier this week, Microsoft OEM Acer criticised the company's plan to launch its own Surface tablets -- a decision that led to consternation among Redmond's hardware partners.

Lenovo could be the first vendor to offer a product that might help kill off Microsoft's plans.

"Lenovo may be saying 'Microsoft is doing Surface, but we're doing everything the Surface does,'" Leslie Fiering, a research vice president at Gartner, told TechNewsWorld. "Plus, if you want to use it for business, we've implemented additional manageability."

Lenovo "is one of the first to realize that they need to kill the Surface effort or they'll be out of the PC business," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "They have really upped their game with this tablet, and it will give Surface a run for the money."

Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 Powered by Windows 8
Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 Powered by Windows 8

Some ThinkPad 2 Facts

The ThinkPad 2 will be based on the Intel Atom processor-based mobile platform. This is likely to be Cedar Trail; Intel has said it would be available from Lenovo and other vendors later this year.

The tablet will be loaded with Windows 8 Pro. It will have a 10-inch multitouch screen and weigh just over a pound. Lenovo is offering a digitizer and pen as options. Other options are an external keyboard, a dock and a fingerprint reader.

The ThinkPad 2 will have an HD display, front- and rear-facing cameras, noise canceling microphones, and wireless video-streaming capabilities. It has a 10-hour battery life.

The tablet will have several ports, including a full-size USB port and an HDMI port. There will apparently be separate models running on 3G and 4G wireless networks.

For corporate users, the ThinkPad 2 has encrypted internal and external storage. IT managers can use Windows 8 Pro and the Intel x86 architecture to provide for virtual private network access; use existing Windows management tools; manage application deployment; and block users from installing certain apps.

The ThinkPad 2 will be available when Windows 8 hits the streets in October.

Sussing Out the ThinkPad 2

The ThinkPad 2 is positioned both as a business and a consumer product, and its approach seems to bear that out.

For instance, by making the digitizer and pen optional, Lenovo's idea "is not to force them down people's throats but to show that if they really need pen input, they've got it for you," Gartner's Fiering suggested.

Pen input "can be critical" when it comes to business use -- for filling in forms, writing a name, or sketching a schematic, Fiering continued.

The ThinkPad is a business line, and that "makes a stylus a requirement," Enderle told TechNewsWorld. The 10-inch panoramic display "makes it better for forms vertically and gives more horizontal real estate when used with a keyboard."

Lenovo will base the ThinkPad 2 on an Intel system on a chip to get iPad-like battery life and a competitive price," Enderle speculated. It will be priced "within (US)$100 to $150 of the iPad."

Mugging at Microsoft

Although Lenovo already had announced it was working on a new version of the ThinkPad tablet that would run on Windows 8 and be released when the OS hit the streets, it's possible the company is blowing Microsoft a raspberry over its plans to launch the Surface tablet.

"Surface was created because what Microsoft saw coming from its OEMs was crap," Enderle suggested. "[The ThinkPad 2] looks to be everything Microsoft initially wanted."

Microsoft "threw the gauntlet down to OEMs saying they need to do more to make the tablet sexy," Gartner's Fiering said. "The OEMs have been less than thrilled to think Microsoft will be a competitor."

Lenovo "is just pointing out the fact that there is nothing unique in the Microsoft Surface that can't be replicated by the OEMs," Fiering continued. "Acer and ASUS are already doing it."

A Lenovo spokesperson was not immediately available to provide further details.


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