Lenovo's IdeaPad U1 PC-Tablet Hybrid: It Lives

The Lenovo IdeaPad U1, which combines a Windows laptop and an Android tablet into one device, was one of the most intriguing products I saw at CES 2010. It was also one of the most intriguing products I saw a year later at CES 2011.

Indeed, the U1's path to a U.S. launch has been long and slightly vaporous, but now, it's nearly here. According to Engadget, the U1 has arrived at the FCC for approval -- a decent indication that it might graduate from trade shows to retail shelves.

Lenovo's IdeaPad U1 PC-Tablet Hybrid: It Lives
Unlike dual-booting Android-Windows hybrids, such as ViewSonic's ViewPad 10, the Lenovo U1 has separate processors for its tablet and PC sides. Pull the screen away from the laptop body, and an ARM-based processor fires up Android. Put it back, and an Intel x86 processor runs Windows. In demonstrations, the transition only took a couple seconds. You can even detach the tablet, connect an external monitor to the laptop body and run both halves of the machine at once.

After 18 months in limbo -- during which Lenovo switched from its own tablet OS to a modified version of Android -- the U1 still seems like a good idea. Although I'm a fan of tablets, when it comes to work they're still no match for a keyboard, pointing device, desktop software and the familiarities of a PC, such as keyboard shortcuts and a file browser. Inevitably, I travel with both a laptop and a tablet, but consolidation is appealing.

That doesn't guarantee that the Lenovo IdeaPad U1 will be a great product. It could be outrageously priced. It could have performance issues. But after all this time, it'd be a shame if the U1 never saw daylight.

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