Chinese-PC maker Lenovo, which acquired its ThinkPad brand and heritage from IBM, is gearing up to launch the LePad tablet this month as a rival to the iPad 2 made by Apple. Not only is the LePad an Android tablet–it will be launched in the U.S. later this year with Android 3.0 Honeycomb–with the optional U1 Hybrid Dock, the LePad can also be positioned as a laptop, bringing versatility to the tablet form factor.
Speaking to China Daily News, Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing expresses confident that the LePad will be able to out-perform the iPad 2 in the company’s home country. “We are confident that the LePad that will be launched this month has its unique advantage over iPad. I hope you can see the launch of our LePad 2 this year, too,” said Yang.
The LePad is a unique Android-based tablet that will stand out among competitors. We saw the tablet and its optional dock at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year and I came away impressed with the versatility and the functionality of LePad. As an Android tablet, the LePad will be coming, according to Lenovo, to the U.S. later this year. The optional U1 dock will have users slide the screen into the lid, to create a laptop-like environment where the Windows-based notebook will utilize processing power from the dock while converting the tablet display into the notebook screen. When in laptop mode, LePad owners will be able to use the tablet display to view content, type and interact with the device via the touchpad and keyboard, and experience the power of Intel’s Core i5 CPU along with Windows 7.
Unlike other Android tablets on the market that are geared more as content consumption devices, the LePad will offer users the ability to produce content and remain productive via the optional U1 Hybrid Dock. In tablet mode, the lightweight ARM-based CPU will power Android’s OS, but once docked, the dock will provide turn the tablet’s display into a screen and will utilize the RAM, ROM, HDD, Intel Core i5 CPU to power Windows 7. Unlike the Atrix 4G’s Laptop Dock, which only provides a screen, touchpad, and keyboard to the phone and the phone will continue to power the webtop environment, Lenovo’s offering will provide the necessary horsepower to turn the tablet into a fully functional, powerful Windows 7 laptop.
Also, unlike Tablet PCs offerings of yore, which runs the Windows OS, the LePad cannot be used as a Windows tablet. In docked mode, the tablet’s screen will not be able to accept finger or pen input, from my understanding with the conversation we had with Lenovo. The benefit of the detachable screen is that in tablet mode, the LePad will not be as clunky as traditional tablet PCs, including the company’s X200 series tablet with the convertible form factor. Without having to carry around the keyboard portion in tablet mode, users will have a more lightweight tablet.
While the tablet itself will be competitive priced against other Android tablets, the device will have built-in mobile broadband support. The U1 Hybrid Dock will also add to the cost of the device for users who need the power of Intel’s CPU and Windows 7. The estimated cost will be between $400-$1,000.
A LePad 2 is being geared up to be announced by the end of the year, according to Lenovo.