updated 12:00 am EDT, Wed July 20, 2011
Lenovo intros Android tablets with Netflix
Lenovo on Wednesday formally tipped its hand and unveiled its first pure mobile tablets. The IdeaPad K1 and ThinkPad Tablet together have the familiar NVIDIA Tegra 2 and 10-inch, 1280x800 screens of most challengers but are the first Android 3 tablets anywhere to support Netflix: both add DRM that isn't in Android 3.1 itself and can not only stream the video service but rent movies outright from Google Videos. The Netflix app should be available as an update by the time the tablets ship and will be followed by an upgrade slightly after launch for buying movies.
Both will also ship with large app libraries preloaded, with as many as 40 total. The K1 will focus on gaming and media with Angry Birds HD, Need for Speed: Shift, Kindle, Slacker Radio, and Arcsync's 2GB cloud storage. More serious apps like Documents To Go will also be on both, although special pen support on the ThinkPad will be paralleled by a Notes Mobile app to take and file notes, including translating pen input to text.
The aim is to have a tablet that's truly ready to use from the start, Lenovo told Electronista.
Lenovo is bringing in its own mild customization of the OS with the Launch Zone UI, a five-point home screen interface for quick jumps to browsing, mail, movies, music, and reading. Social Touch will provide the obligatory unified Facebook, mail, and Twitter integration. Lenovo is even trying its hand at its own app store, the Lenovo App Shop, to curate apps it believes are optimized for its tablets.
The two are similar in more areas and are as large as original iPads, at about 0.52 inches thick and 1.6 pounds with a claimed 10-hour battery life. They partly make up for this with five-megapixel rear and two-megapixel front cameras as well as 1080p-capable mini HDMI outputs and microSD storage slots, although it's not clear if the cards will work without Android 3.2. The ThinkPad, apart from a more sober look, will have an N-Trig screen that supports a pressure-sensitive pen as well as full-size SD card and USB ports.
Corporate buyers will have extra security through Computrace to track lost tablets, Cisco VPN and Good Technology approvals, data encryption, and even the option of disabling ports to prevent abusing features. They also get extra, specialized Android support and the option of protection against accidental damage.
The IdeaPad K1 will be competitive with the iPad and should cost $499 for a 32GB Wi-Fi version when it arrives in August; a keyboard dock is available but hasn't been given a price. A ThinkPad Tablet will cost $479 for a 16GB Wi-Fi version without a pen and $509 for a version with the pen rolled in. A folio case with a built-in keyboard and optical trackpoint will cost $99. Versions of the ThinkPad with 3G will be available "shortly after launch," Lenovo said.
Lenovo's entrance into the tablet market has been one of the most delayed of any company involved, with models promised as early as January 2010 when the IdeaPad U1 crossover netbook/tablet hybrid appeared. Later that year, it delayed its plans to replace their custom Linux platforms with Android as well as to improve competition with the iPad. The Chinese firm has been cautious to get into the market and, in talking to Electronista on the eve of the launch, took a jab at Apple but claiming that it didn't believe in making "one tablet for everyone."