RIM had better watch out.
Lenovo is a bit of a leaky sieve this week, with details of the new Honeycomb ThinkPad tablet seeping out to This Is My Next earlier this week. So far, the new ThinkPad appears to be a focused enterprise / productivity device. It will have an (optional) stylus, for faster note-taking and precision doodling, and a keyboard dock that basically turns it into a laptop. The tablet itself will weigh 1.6 pounds and have a thickness of .55".
For hardware, we're looking at a Tegra 2 processor and 16, 32 and 64 GB storage options. The ThinkPad will be microSD compatible and support 3G/4G connectivity. There's also mini-HDMI out and USB 2.0. The screen is a 10.1" multitouch IPS display. Which basically means it will offer wider viewing angles and superior color reproduction to traditional LCDs.
So the hardware is solid, and Lenovo has a reputation for delivering excellent mobile products. I had a chance to play with the LePad and U1 at CES in January and I walked away from the demos duly impressed. Lenovo seems to understand what customers want out of a tablet. And this tablet is carefully honed to be the most desirable Android Enterprise device around. It'll have Cisco enterprise app integration as well as support for Symantec, MacAfee and other security applications.
I can't help but notice that the ThinkPad seems eerily similar to the U1 Hybrid that launched in China earlier this year. At CES, Lenovo's rep told me that a similar product would hit the US market closer to this fall. Could the new ThinkPad be that "hybrid"?
While the U1 could act as a Windows 7 machine or an Android tablet, depending on whether it was docked or not, the ThinkPad is an Android-only device. But the form-factor, a tablet that slides into a laptop frame, is too similar to not raise any questions.
If that is the case, Lenovo may have decided that Android is robust enough to handle all the needs of their corporate clients. As mobile chips grow more powerful and application offerings expand, the functionality gap between desktop and mobile operating systems narrows. Microsoft knows this- which is why Windows 8 will work with ARM chipsets.
The folks at RIM must be a little on edge looking at the slides for this new ThinkPad. Their edge in Enterprise traditionally comes from security and the brand identity BlackBerry has established among the corporate elite. But the popularity of Android and iOS are wearing that down. And here is an Android tablet with enough security features to put any CIO's mind at ease. As nice as the PlayBook is, I don't know if it has the draw to stand up against the host of Android tablets nipping at its heels.