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Lenovo’s three new tablets try to tackle the iPad

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Lenovo today introduced a trio of new tablet computers, two running Google’s Android(s goog) 3.1 operating system and the third powered by Microsoft(s msft) Windows 7. The Wi-Fi tablets, which leverage the ThinkPad and IdeaPad brands, range in price from $479 to $589 depending on model, storage capacity and an optional pen for one. The company will also offer a $99 keyboard portfolio case for at least one of the new tablets. Both Android tablets are comparably equipped, running on Nvidia’s Tegra 2(s nvda) processor and are the first Honeycomb devices to be certified for Netflix (s nflx) playback.

Here’s a brief summary of the devices:

IdeaPad K1 (starting at $499 for 32 GB model; orders begin today; U.S. availability in August)

  • 1 GHz dual-core CPU
  • 10.1-inch IPS display; 1280×800 resolution
  • Up to 1 GB of memory, 16/32/64 GB of storage capacity
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi; Bluetooth
  • MicroSD card slot; micro-HDMI port
  • 5 megapixel rear camera; 2 megapixel front camera
  • 10.4″ x 7.44″ x 0.52″; weight of 1.63 pounds
  • Estimated 10 hours of battery life
ThinkPad Tablet ($479 for 16 GB model; $589 for 32 GB with digitizer pen, orders begin August 2)
  • 1 GHz dual-core CPU
  • 10.1-inch IPS display; 1280×800 resolution
  • Up to 1 GB of memory, 16/32/64 GB of storage capacity
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi; Bluetooth
  • Full sized SD memory card slot; micro-HDMI port
  • 5 megapixel rear camera; 2 megapixel front camera
  • 10.4″ x 7.44″ x 0.52″; weight of 1.65 pounds
  • Estimated 8 hours of battery life
  • An optional 3G model will be available shortly after launch
ThinkPad Tablet P1 (pricing not announced; availability in Q4)
  • 1.5GHz Intel (s intc) processor
  • Microsoft Windows 7
  • 10.1-inch display; 1280×800 resolution
  • Up to 2 GB of memory; 32/64 GB of storage capacity
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi; Bluetooth
  • USB port; microSD card reader; docking port
  • 2 megapixel webcam
  • 10.9″ x 7.24″ x 0.57″; weight of 1.75 pounds
  • Estimated 6 hours of battery life

Compared to most of the currently available tablets running Honeycomb, there’s little here to differentiate Lenovo’s offering. The ThinkPad model does have a digitizer from N-Trig, allowing for pen use and includes Notes Mobile software; I suspect that’s what adds slightly to the weight and decreases the battery life from the K1 model. Lenovo’s product team told me on a conference call last week that the Netflix certification is a big deal, and yes it is nice, but other large Android tablets are sure to gain the same certification soon.

Adobe Flash 10.3 (s adbe) support is there too, but that’s not selling tablets. Other software tweaks include a “Social Touch” app for easy social networking status viewing and Lenovo’s own take on a program launcher. In other words, minor tweaks aside, Lenovo is mixing the same recipe as other Android tablet vendors, just with slightly different software ingredients. Lenovo is however, including more than 40 apps from various top-tier partners such as Amazon, Electronic Arts, Rovio and DataViz.

The problem that Lenovo, and most other tablet vendors face is the iPad juggernaut that shows no signs of slowing. As my colleague Erica noted after today’s Apple investor call, the company has earned $6 billion from the iPad in the last quarter by selling 9.25 million iPads. I don’t have sales numbers or company reports to validate my thought here, but I’m willing to bet that adding up sales of all Android tablets combined this year and it wouldn’t match what the iPad brought to Apple in the last three months. Put another way: even as Apple continues to grow its PC business, mobile devices are already accounting for more of Apple’s earnings. In the meantime, Lenovo is readying consumer tablets in an already crowded market that appears stalled before it really even got started.

Developers know this and haven’t made the move to create compelling tablet-optimized apps for Honeycomb yet. And consumers are using tablets for more than just the web and email. When spending $500 or more on a tablet, they want a wide variety of third-party apps to choose from. No matter how nice the hardware looks, Lenovo’s Android tablets, like those from other manufacturers, can’t offer that yet. On the other hand, the P1 tablet with Windows does offer a range of available software, but most of it isn’t built for a mobile experience; the same challenge Windows tablets have always faced.

15 Responses to “Lenovo’s three new tablets try to tackle the iPad”

  1. pasmith

    I’m a bit confused on the Netflix factor. I thought Netflix had, at this point, only certified the TI OMAP 4 for HD playback on an Android platform. But these are Tegra 2 tablets and at least one of them comes with Netflix pre-installed.

    Can anyone clear up my confusion?

    • Correct, TI’s OMAP was the first to be Netflix HD (1080p) certified for tablets, but QCOM was already certified for regular streaming on Android; I’ve been using Netflix on my Nexus One for a weeks now. Although I haven’t seen an official Netflix announcement, Nvidia’s Tegra 2 is now certified; a good thing because consumers don’t want to worry about which chip is inside their device when choosing software / services.

  2. The ThinkPad Tablet P1 has specs better than many existing netbooks. This is very advantageous for them, however installing windows 7 kills the whole point. I mean it would work great if they could stick to android on this one too.

  3. Loopei

    why do GigaOM posts always have to be Apple vs Google? why not just show the product release announcement & move on?

    nobody thought Android had a shot against iOS a few years ago & look what happened, give tablets a few years & the samething will happen. sloppy buildups are just the nature of loose knit communities, look at Windows.

    • I suppose we could just copy and paste the press release for every new product, but how would that add any value? In my opinion, GigaOM hasn’t made this about Apple vs Google in the tablet space; the current market has. And that’s why it’s relevant to this discussion. You’re absolutely right to bring up Android vs iOS in smartphones, although I don’t agree that nobody thought Google had a shot to compete. It was, as you mentioned, going to take time; something I said with the G1 review. Time was needed to work out the kinks, update the UI and court developers. The same can easily be said of today’s tablet market, but Google is much further behind iOS in tablets than it was in smartphones based on the sales numbers we’re witnessing. Does that mean Android tablets are dead? Nope. But what about these Lenovo tablets would convince you (or millions of others) to buy it over an iPad (or another Android tablet for that matter)? That’s the question that needs an answer. ;)

      • Neruello

        “Google is much further behind iOS in tablets than it was in smartphones based on the sales numbers we’re witnessing”

        not sure what metrics you’re using to measure success but Android tablets are off to a MUCH better start than phones. Android tablets haven’t even been out a year & had a horribly sloppy start yet still have over 30% marketshare. these numbers are from the likes of your buddies Chippy, Sacha, etc.

        you’re just confusing US-centric perception versus reality.

        Android will easily be the market leader in 1-2yrs especially after Amazon get’s in the game. the only company right now with a shot at Android is Windows 8 (Apples core business model will never let them be #1 in OS marketshare).

        • Well, the only 30% Android tablet marketshare report I saw hit earlier this week from Strategy Analytics, IIRC. But it doesn’t tell us at all about how many Android tablets were sold; it only measures how many were shipped. That means every Android tablet on a store shelf or stocked in a warehouse counts. And for my measurement, it shouldn’t because it’s a meaningless number when compared to the number of iPads sold. If you have additional data on actual Android tablets sold, I’d be appreciative if you shared. Thx!

  4. Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

    Hmmm, so which is the Windows 7 in the bunch? The specs don’t say… The picture of the one with the Windows OS says it is an “Idea_P1_Hero-02”, but that does not fit with any of the names of the 3 tablets with specs. I am a bit confused (maybe its too early in the morning). Thanks for the report!

  5. Wow, this is superb. Must give it a try. I have a personal timesheet application running on Wolf Database Platform & iOS for the iPhone and iPad (

  6. I don’t think the Android tablets will sell that well until Android 4.0 and Tegra 3 appear in them, so sometime this fall. It’s still a lot of time lost, and I blame both Google for releasing Honeycomb unfinished and the SDK just one day before Xoom launched (compared to Apple which released it 2 months before iPad launch), and also the manufacturers for wanting to set a new “standard pricing” for tablets of around $600-&800. Samsung did it first with the Tab, then Motorola with Xoom, and then LG, too. Samsung realized their mistake later with Tab 10.1, and also Asus appeared with Transformer, but they missed the initial wave that should’ve gotten Android fans excited.

    I’m sort of glad it happened this way and the initial tablets didn’t sell, because I didn’t want them to succeed in setting a higher standard price for tablets. I’d rather see them lose 6 months of momentum than set a trend for 3G-only tablets at $800.

    “Fortunately”, it worked, but that also means iPad has an even bigger lead now, and they have less time to gain momentum and get 3rd party app developers before Windows 8 launches (even though I still think Windows 8’s future is questionable on ARM tablets, since it will also have zero apps, and will mostly support just web-apps).

    Google really needs to make sure they don’t screw up this “second” wave of Android tablets with Android 4.0 and Tegra 3. They need to polish Android 4.0 a lot more, make the UI even cleaner (Google+ style perhaps), and make sure there are at least 1000 “great” apps by this fall for Android tablets. I still can’t believe how much they undervalued the existence of tablet apps *before* Xoom launched. It’s like they didn’t even care if there will be many apps or not at Honeycomb launch.

    • Well said, Lucian. Google wasn’t as ready as I thought it was to compete in the tablet market. Then again, the original G1 handset wasn’t either; it took a good 6 months to get apps and software updates to begin appealing to the mass market.