FORTUNE -- Who says tablets have to be flat? There was no decree from Steve Jobs, no edict from Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOG), or Samsung. Oh, and Ashton Kutcher thinks it's unnecessary (more on that later). Yet the tablet market today is a sea of often indistinguishable flat slates in which hardware innovation is measured in thinness, screen resolution, battery life and speed.
On Tuesday, Lenovo, the Chinese computer giant, unveiled a new line of Android tablets. The thin devices immediately stand out because of a cylindrical bulge that's built along one of their edges. The cylinder provides the space for a hefty battery that, according to Lenovo, can power the devices for 16 to 18 hours, which if true, blows away the competition.
The design may sound clunky, but it looks slick. And Lenovo says the cylinder changes the weight distribution of the device, making it easier to hold. A built-in kickstand allows users to place the tablet in a variety of positions, for typing, playing, reading, or watching. Not surprisingly, Lenovo named the new tablets Yoga, after its convertible ultra book, one of the most popular Windows 8 devices to hit the market.
It's far too early to tell whether the Yoga tablets, which are available now starting at $249 and $299, will be a hit. Early reviews, like this one from The Verge, which astutely compares the shape of the Yoga to Apple's wireless keyboard (and I may add, Apple's touchpad), suggest it is indeed quite comfortable to hold.
Lenovo is a relative newbie in the mobile computing world. But, as I described in a Fortune profile earlier this year, Lenovo has blown past its rivals in the PC market through a combination of scale, smart strategy (truly global, diversified), and product innovation. Now it's bringing this approach to the phone market, where in just two years it climbed to No. 2 smartphone seller in China and No. 4 globally.
Bringing the Yoga-inspired versatility and unconventional look to tablets, where the company has yet to make a splash, makes good sense. Or so says Lenovo's latest "product engineer," the Hollywood celebrity and co-star of Two and a Half Men, Kutcher. That's right, Kutcher, already a prolific tech investor, now has a side gig as advisor to Lenovo's engineers and designers. He told USA Today that he hopes to help make Lenovo's products "as consumer friendly as possible."
Hiring a celebrity pitchman is a tried and true strategy for Lenovo, whose chief marketing officer, Apple and HP veteran David Roman, lined up soccer stars to sell its products in Japan and basketball greats to promote them in China. Roman has said that the partnership will go beyond the typical marketing alliance, as Kutcher "will help us break new ground by challenging assumptions, bringing new perspective and contributing his technical expertise to Yoga Tablet and other devices."
With Kutcher and Lenovo teaming up for an event in Los Angeles, the Yoga tablets had the well-orchestrated launch befitting a product that deserves attention. Except for one thing. The event was being held just as the reviews for Apple's new iPad Air and iPad Mini were hitting newspaper websites and blogs the world over. If you hadn't heard about the Yoga yet, now you know why.
Mixed positives for Kutcher's performance, thumbs down for Joshua Michael Stern's film.
FORTUNE -- Expecting the worst, I was pleasantly surprised. My wife, who would die happy if she never heard another word about Apple (AAPL), thought the two-hour-and-seven-minute movie was about an hour too long.
Ashton Kutcher's "Jobs," opens Friday. I can't wait for Aaron ["The Social Network"] Sorkin to finish his. Neither, apparently, can the critics. Excerpts from the first reviews:
Peter Keough, Boston MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 16, 2013 6:35 AM ET
A great film? Not exactly. Worth watching? Definitely.
By Andy Serwer, managing editor
FORTUNE -- I got a little freaked out.
While overall the new movie Jobs rates a definitive 'MEH' from me, and an even harsher, "soooo bad," from Fortune's Adam Lashinsky, I thought Ashton Kutcher in the lead role was pretty damn good. Even to the point where it brought back memories of my various meetings and conversations with Steve, MOREAug 8, 2013 11:44 AM ET
But Steve Wozniak is still bitter that Steve Jobs was "trying to kill" the Apple II.
FORTUNE -- Among the 1.9 million people who, as of Monday morning, had viewed the trailer for Ashton Kutcher's Steve Jobs biopic that was posted on YouTube last week was Steve Wozniak, Apple's (AAPL) curmudgeonly co-founder.
Woz hated the 1-minute clip of the movie that was released in January, but he's a lot more forgiving of the 2-minute MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 24, 2013 6:23 AM ET
We can only hope that the first Steve Jobs biopic out of the gate is also the worst.
FORTUNE -- It's hard to say exactly when the feature film called iSteve -- released Tuesday on Funny or Die's website -- jumps the shark.
It could be the very first scene, when a balding and bearded Steve Jobs (played by Justin Long of the Get a Mac commercials) breaks the fourth wall of MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 17, 2013 8:10 AM ET
The closest thing to a Steve Jobs appearance the Expo has seen since 2008
FORTUNE -- Okay, so it's not the Aaron Sorkin version we really want to see -- the one based on Walter Isaacson's biography. But it is the first Steve Jobs biopic to make it out of the gate (premiered at Sundance last week to mixed reviews, scheduled for release April 19), and it does have Demi Moore's MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 31, 2013 12:01 PM ET
Apple Maps is taken to task (yet again); Instagram has more users than Twitter.
It's a hits business: Silicon Valley and Hollywood share more than Ashton Kutcher [VENTURE MINDED]
The evaluation of whether to invest in a startup and the decision of whether to greenlight a film are also startlingly similar. From a diligence perspective, financial projections are primarily reviewed for the purpose of a sanity test. Do the financial projections coincide with MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Sep 27, 2012 1:28 PM ET
Aaron Sorkin talks about future Steve Jobs movie, impact of technology on his writing [ENGADGET]
The highlights included a frank quote that whoever ends up playing Jobs in his movie -- not to be confused with the one already in production with Ashton Kutcher -- will have to be "good, and intelligent." He also confessed to being fully engaged in the "three screens" movement, but wasn't too prideful to admit that he MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - May 31, 2012 12:08 PM ET
The star of Twitter and TV sitcoms is doing a quick indie film, not the Sony biopic
The blogosphere lit up Sunday night with the news that Ashton Kutcher, star of Twitter and TV Sitcoms (That 70s Show, Two and a Half Men), had been signed to play the title role in Jobs, a film being described as the story of Steve Jobs' transformation from "wayward hippie" to co-founder of Apple MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 2, 2012 5:47 AM ET
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"The one OMGPOP employee who turned down joining Zynga was the weakest one on the whole team. Selfish people make bad games. Good riddance!" -- Dan Porter, CEO of Draw Something-maker, OMGPOP. (VentureBeat)
* "Two and a Half Men" actor and start-up investor Ashton Kutcher will play Steve Jobs in an indie biopic dubbed "Jobs." "Swing MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Apr 2, 2012 3:30 AM ET
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