Lenovo makes consumer notebook push at CES

Already a mainstay in the enterprise space with its ThinkPad line of notebook PCs, Lenovo is using the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week to make a splash in the consumer arena, debuting a number of new designs.

It was at last year’s CES that Lenovo first entered the consumer space in a big way said Craig Merrigan, vice-president, global consumer marketing, in a pre-CES media briefing, receiving good response and recognition for the reliability, engineering and design of its IdeaPad consumer line. The product line expanded throughout 2008, and Merrigan says features such as VeriFace Recognition, Dolby Theatre Sound and touch-sensitive controls are separating Lenovo from the competition.

“To make our product available to consumers we’ve substantially expanded our channel coverage throughout the year,” said Merrigan. “They’ve been critical to this year’s success.”

For the new and refreshed consumer offerings Lenovo is unveiling at CES, Merrigan says the vendor paid careful attention to trends around social media, high-definition entertainment, style and design. According to Lenovo’s research high quality speakers and video recording are becoming a must, most people access the Web while they’re watching television, and design and fashion are increasingly important to today’s consumers.

“We’re starting to build capabilities around these consumer needs and consumer trends,” said Merrigan. “In 2009, we’ll continue to create products that reflect our engineering and design leadership, and which meet today’s digital lifestyle trends.”

Debuting at CES are the IdeaPad Y650, Y550 and Y450, a consumer entertainment notebook with screen sizes of 16”, 15” and 14” respectively. Also new is the IdeaPad U130 ultraportable, an update of the U110, as well as the IdeaPad S10 netbook, which has been updated with social networking tools. Finally, Lenovo is also launching the IdeaCentre A600 All-in-One desktop.

“Whether consumers are new to social networking, active content producers or entertainment junkies, we’ve created a range of PCs that will fit their needs,” said Merrigan.

The U series of notebooks are thinner, lighter, stylish, and have been engineered for HD entertainment says Ninis Samuel, director of marketing strategy and programs, global consumer marketing, Lenovo. They’ve been optimized for HD entertainment with graphics support from the latest Nvidia graphics card, feature a 16:9 widescreen display, and offer enhanced audio with Dolby Home Theatre Sound.

A new feature Samuel has high hopes for that is available on the Y series is dubbed OneKey Theatre.

“This is a feature that is activated by the press of one button on the laptop and it optimizes your movie viewing experience,” said Samuel. “You’ll see better sound, better graphics, and we think that’s a compelling offer to consumers who, more and more these days, are experiencing video on their laptops.”

Another new feature is Lenovo Desktop Navigator, a touch-sensitive slidebar above the keyboard that activates short-cuts to frequently-used applications in an on-screen display similar to the Mac OS application ribbon.

The 16” Y650 also offers JBL speakers and an ambient light sensor on the lid that senses the light of the room and adjusts graphics brightness/contrast automatically. All the Y series notebooks offer a multi-touch keypad, and the VeriFace facial recognition software can also now be used to encrypt and decrypt files.

The U130 ultraportable is a refresh of the U110, and weighing 2.36lbs offers a faster processor and better graphics and storage in the same U110 design.“We’re basically making it faster and updating it for 2009,” said Samuel.

The S10 netbook offers a 10.1” widescreen display and is .9” thin, weighing-in at 2.43 lbs. A new feature is Lenovo Quickstart, a ten-second start-up OS that will bring users to some of their most commonly-used applications, such as the Web, music and instant messaging.

“We’ve had great feedback from our customers and our partners on our netbooks,” said Samuel.

Lastly, in the consumer space, Lenovo boasts the A600 All-in-One desktop is the thinnest in its class, with a 21.5” frameless 16:9 HD display that is just 1.06” thin.

“We’re very excited to show this off and debut it at CES,” said Samuel. “Essentially, it’s everything in one: your PC, your gaming experience, your TV, music, all in one, really stylish form. It’s really engineered for HD entertainment.”

One impressive feature is the 4 in 1 remote. It functions as a media centre remote, a VoIP handset, an “air mouse” and it takes a page from Nintendo’s Wii by functioning as a wireless controller for motion-controlled games.

Lastly, in the enterprise arena Lenovo is launching a new edition of its ThinkPad W700 enterprise-class notebook workstation by offering a dual-screen option. Dubbed the W700ds, it features a 10.6” secondary screen that pops-out from behind the 17” primary display, and can be angled-in by up to 30 degrees.

“We’re starting the year off with a double-header by introducing the industry’s first dual-screen mobile workstation, the ThinkPad W700ds,” said Wes Williams, worldwide product marketing manager, ThinkPad, with Lenovo.

The new offering is aimed at markets such as digital content creation, computer-aided design and the oil and gas sector, says William.

“Why two screens? Most workstation users typically use two monitors,” said Williams. “Research has shown workers are more productive with they use two screens, and with this laptop productivity isn’t sacrificed when they go mobile.”

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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