US Launch before Year's End
This morning I hopped out of the Intel press conference a smidge early and made my way to Lenovo's booth in the Aquanox resturaunt. It was a glittering blue utopia of laptops. Lenovo has dozens of new IdeaPad and IdeaCentre laptops. But the most exciting product in their whole line-up was the U1 Hybrid.
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This tablet / laptop first saw the light of day at CES 2010. Back then, Lenovo planned to launch it running their own proprietary Linux OS. But then they changed their collective mind.
"We pissed off a lot of press last year." said the PR rep. He went on to explain that they had watched the developing mobile marketplace and decided that Android was a better long-term choice for the platform. So they made the switch. It set the U1 back a year, but-
"It is better get it right than to launch early and get it wrong."
Which is absolutely true. And, from what I saw, Lenovo's U1 is right. The screen is responsive, the custom UI gives you a ton of info at a glance. There are flick-scrolling menus aplenty and the U1 switches between tablet and Windows 7 mode almost seamlessly. But don't take my words for it- here's the video!
As a netbook, the U1 feels a little thick. The laptop mode gives you a dual-core CULV processor and 2 GB of DDR3 RAM. It lasts about 6 hours on a charge. The tablet is thin, solid and very comfortable in my hands. Both the LePad and its hybrid body will launch in China this month, and in the US later in the year.
The version we get won't actually be the U1, but it will be a similar product with some tweaks made for the US market. The Chinese version looks to cost roughly $1300 for everything, but I heard hints that the US version may run a bit closer to the $1000 mark.
The U1 will use Lenovo's app store in China, but the rep confirmed to me that they intend to use the Android Market for their US launch.