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.
A graphical look at the state of play on the eve of another Apple special event.
FORTUNE -- Anticipating some iPad news out of Apple (AAPL) Tuesday, I'm trying to get a picture of the state of play in the global tablet market from published graphs and charts. Most of the attached are based on IDC data. If you spot any that are fresher -- or better -- please send them MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 21, 2013 2:25 PM ET
Even as Lenovo was becoming the top seller of PCs, its sales of mobile devices were surpassing its sales of computers.
FORTUNE -- In yet another data point highlighting the worldwide shift from PCs to tablets and smartphones, Lenovo (LNVGY) says its sales of mobile devices have surpassed its sales of PCs.
Sales of "smart devices" (including phones, tablets, and PCs) rose by 41% in over the past year, Lenovo said in MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Aug 15, 2013 1:13 PM ET
The Chinese tech company is one of the biggest companies in the world.
FORTUNE -- As widely expected, China's Lenovo this week emerged as the world's top purveyor of personal computers, according to new reports from two research firms. Both Gartner and IDC say Lenovo's market share in the second quarter of 2013 hit 16.7%. Lenovo unseats longtime No. 1, Hewlett Packard, whose share fell to 16.3%, Gartner says.
Lenovo had another MOREStephanie N. Mehta, Deputy Managing Editor - Jul 11, 2013 7:48 AM ET
Sony's new Sony Vaio Pro laptops are lighter than MacBook Airs and (almost) just as thin.
FORTUNE -- Clasp Sony's 13-inch VAIO Pro in one hand, and you'll be impressed by how light it feels. It's even lighter than the most svelte 11-inch MacBook Air.
The Air is obviously far from heavy, but thanks to carbon fiber used throughout the Vaio Pro's body, Sony (SNE) trimmed the weight to 1.92 lbs. for the 11-inch MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jul 9, 2013 9:40 AM ET
The story behind the computer world's most enduring design -- and that quirky little red dot in the middle of the ThinkPad keyboard.
FORTUNE -- A few rows of airline seats are bolted to the floor in a room with sweeping views of the North Carolina countryside at Lenovo's U.S. headquarters in Morrisville. It's an incongruous sight, until you realize that if you are going to make one of the most MOREMiguel Helft, senior writer - Jun 10, 2013 5:00 AM ET
Embattled computer manufacturers are making new machines they hope can keep pace with phones and tablets.
FORTUNE -- For PC makers, Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution holds true now more than ever: adapt to their rapidly-evolving environment or perish.
"The PC industry is like that scene out of Jurassic Park, where the little kid asks the professor, 'What happened to all the dinosaurs?' and he responds, 'We see them everyday: They're MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jun 4, 2013 6:45 AM ET
Valuation concerns have scuttled negotiations, according to a person familiar with the talks.
FORTUNE -- Negotiations between Lenovo and IBM over a multi-billion dollar deal under which Lenovo would acquire parts of IBM's server business have broken down, according to people familiar with the situation.
While the discussions could resume, they were halted over valuation concerns, according to a person familiar with the talks.
Spokespeople for Lenovo and IBM (IBM) declined to comment.
MORE: Nearly MOREMiguel Helft, senior writer - May 1, 2013 4:32 PM ET
In the last quarter of 2012, Apple had 5% of the global PC market and 45% of the profit.
FORTUNE -- Everybody who follows the computer industry knows that Apple's (AAPL) Mac trails far behind its Microsoft (MSFT) Windows-based competitors -- Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Dell (DELL), Lenovo and the like -- in terms of worldwide PC shipments.
But who knew what the market looked like in terms of economic value?
Leave it to Asymco MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 16, 2013 2:53 PM ET
Lenovo is the single PC manufacturer that is doing well. And even that company's worldwide sales are flat.
FORTUNE -- Let's say the definition of "PC" is the same one we applied five years ago, before tablets. By that definition, the market seems to be collapsing.
Shipments of PCs in the first quarter fell by 13.9% from the same quarter in 2012. The forecast decline had been 7.7%, according to International Data MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Apr 11, 2013 2:44 PM ET
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