CES: Lenovo unveils hybrid tablet laptop with 'two brains'

Lenovo today announced its IdeaPad U1, a consumer Windows laptop with a touchscreen that can be detached and used as a separate Linux tablet computer.

Used conventionally, the 3.8-pound U1 runs Windows 7 on an Intel Core 2 Duo CULV processor and, reportedly, a 128GB solid-state drive.

But pull off the 11.6-inch multi-touch-enabled screen, and it powers up as a full tablet in its own right, running Lenovo's custom Skylight touch-enabled version of Linux via a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM chipset and a reported 16GB of flash memory.

Other vendors have released notebooks that can double as tablets after users swivel the screen. Lenovo's ThinkPad X60 is one example.

The IdeaPad U1 appears to be the first in which the screen not only comes off completely, but also comes with its own processor.

The Chinese PC maker, in a statement, called the U1 "the industry's first hybrid PC for consumers" and said that "two brains are better than one."

The IdeaPad U1 will be available June 1 at an estimated retail price of less than $1,000.

The 1.6-pound tablet should power up within three seconds of being removed from the base, which can remain on as a 3G wireless hub for the tablet.

Lenovo has created software called Hybrid Switch that it says can enable users to toggle seamlessly between the Intel and ARM processors. For instance, users should be able to surf the Web while the tablet is docked, and then continue to surf from the same point when the tablet is pulled off.

Here's a video of the IdeaPad U1 from CES .

With a total of 10 new PCs, Lenovo is showing off some of the most innovative PC hardware at this year's show. It also announced a two-pound, $499 smartbook, also running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and its Skylight Linux platform.

By contrast, Hewlett-Packard's new laptops mostly have small improvements or upgrades over past models.

However, the New York Times , citing unnamed sources, said that Microsoft will unveil a slate computer during CEO Steve Ballmer's Wednesday evening keynote speech at CES. That tablet will reportedly be manufactured by HP .

Eric Lai covers Windows and Linux, desktop applications, databases and business intelligence for Computerworld . Follow Eric on Twitter @ericylai , send e-mail at elai@computerworld.com or subscribe to Eric's RSS feed .

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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