RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Lenovo is exploiting the flexibility of the Windows 8 operating system to present a smorgasbord of device form factors to the market — offering an array of convertibles and leaving the choice to the customers.

Because Windows 8 runs on PC, tablets and everything in between, it poses a challenge to vendors: on which form factor should they put their money? Lenovo is backing several, including tablets and touchscreen PCs. TBR believes this is a sound strategy; it is impossible to determine this early which ones will prove useful and popular. These are products with real virtues and TBR believes Lenovo will have success with one or more of them. With its multiple offerings, Lenovo also strengthens its brand by highlighting its innovation.

In New York, Lenovo showed off the four devices it calls convertibles. Combining keyboards with touchscreens that bend over backward (Yoga 11 and Yoga 13), twist around backward (Twist), or undock completely (Lynx), the devices are PCs with tablet enhancements, aimed variously at consumer, education and SMB markets.

Event Overview

Lenovo rented a venue in the fashionable Chelsea district of Manhattan and populated it with a number of artists in different media who demonstrated their use of Lenovo convertibles as part of the company’s “For Those Who Do” marketing motto.

One of the artists, a fashion designer, actor and DJ, filled the hall with music. Lenovo executives showed off the several models and showed an advertising video shot by the director of the latest James Bond movie, showing Lenovo convertibles in a thriller mini-movie. Then the PCs were put on display and Lenovo personnel were available to answer questions. When leaving, guests were given Lenovo-branded yoga mats, in honor of the Yoga PCs.

TBR believes it is important to recognize these devices as PCs. With a full-fledged PC operating system, keyboards and the ability to connect additional screens and mice, these PCs are fully capable content-creation devices, unlike Android and iOS tablets. They are not in-between devices; they are enhanced PCs:

• The Lynx is an Atom-based Windows 8 tablet with a keyboard dock that turns it into a full, folding notebook PC. The tablet price is $599, and the keyboard dock is $149.

• The Twist is an Ultrabook supporting Core i3, i5, and i7 processors. The screen can be turned on a central hinge, allowing it to be “closed” with the touchscreen up, like a tablet. It weighs 3.5 pounds, and prices start at $849.

• The Yoga 13 is a 13-inch Ultrabook, with a touchscreen that folds completely around, allowing it to be held in one hand like a tablet, or to stand up with the screen forward. It supports Core i5 and i7 processors. It weighs 3.4 pounds. Prices range up from $1099 and up.

• The Yoga 11 has the same 360-degree hinge and range of motion as the Yoga 13, but the resemblance ends there. It has an nVidia Tegra 3 processor and runs Windows RT, a limited tablet-oriented version of Windows 8. Windows RT has a version of Microsoft Office, but it does not run other Windows applications. Prices start at $799.

TBR believes Microsoft Office is the critical feature of Windows RT. The market will be challenged to understand the relationship between Windows 8 and Windows RT apart from this feature and, TBR believes, will treat RT as a challenger to iOS and Android with uncertain compatibility with Windows PC operating systems. Office versions for iOS and Android have been reported, including in a press release from Microsoft in the Czech Republic, but Microsoft issued a retraction, saying the release is incorrect. If Office is available on iOS and Android, TBR believes Windows RT will be challenged to enter the market.

Impact and Opportunities

Windows 8, a single operating system for tablets and PCs, enables a wide range of form factors. TBR believes the convertible, a PC with some tablet characteristics, will have a long-lasting presence going forward. The tablet enhancements do not impinge on their operation as PCs and offer real benefits. These devices are easier to use while standing and are more convenient for checking email and calendars. They are better suited than old-fashioned PCs for reading, viewing photographs and watching videos. As tablets, they are heavier, thicker and more expensive, but for many users and many uses they will be good-enough tablets and no-compromise PCs.

Lenovo traditionally is experimental in its product approach; it puts large numbers of diverse products into the market and waits to see which ones are received well. TBR believes this approach is especially appropriate as the new version of Windows and tablet technology shake up the stodgy old PC, and we believe Lenovo will have success with one or more of these offerings. Pricing, however, is a barrier to rapid adoption of these devices. The two Ultrabooks, the Yoga 13 and the Twist, are at the high end of the Ultrabook range, and Ultrabook adoption has been slow because of price sensitivity. The Lynx is a very attractive consumer/student device, but at $748 for an Atom-based, 11-inch PC it is quite expensive. The Yoga 11 is challenged by a difficult-to-define operating system, an ARM processor and a price tag of $799.

The convertibles will have buyers and they will focus attention on Lenovo’s design and engineering, but they will not move the market very much until prices decrease starting late next year.

(Editor’s Note: Technology Business Research, Inc. is a leading independent technology market research and consulting firm specializing in the business and financial analyses of hardware, software, networking equipment, wireless, portal and professional services vendors. Serving a global clientele, TBR provides timely and accurate market research and business intelligence in a format that is uniquely tailored to clients’ needs. TBR has been empowering corporate decision makers since 1996.)