A few days ago, HP announced the Spectre Foldable PC. It’s been designed as a 3-in-1 hybrid device. It can work as a stand-alone Windows 11 17-inch tablet, or it can be folded into a 12.3-inch notebook with its included keyboard. You can even use the full display with a kickstand as a desktop PC, again with the included wireless keyboard.
This hybrid design is actually going to be released, although at a huge $4,999.99 price tag. This is just the latest in a long list of devices that have been created to be used as more than just a laptop or just a tablet.
It brings to mind a very odd device that was first announced back in January 2010 at CES. Lenovo revealed its plans for the IdeaPad U1 at the trade show. This was meant to be a hybrid of a laptop and a tablet but in a very weird mix of both hardware and software.
Engadget posted Lenovo’s full press release that first revealed the IdeaPad U1:
When the IdeaPad U1 is in its traditional clamshell form, the system boasts an 11.6 inch HD LED screen and runs Windows 7. When the 1.6 pound, multitouch screen is removed, it becomes an independent slate tablet with a powerful ARM processor, running Lenovo’s customized Skylight operating system.
As the press release states, the OS that the Lenovo IdeaPad U1 used when the 1.6-pound display was detached from its 3.7 pound Windows 7 notebook base was its own operating system, which was based on Linux. Lenovo stated at the time:
Users can switch between a six-section display and a four section display. U1’s six-section screen display is designed to enhance the mobile internet experience by letting users easily multitouch access multiple Web-based applications at once such as email, calendars, RSS readers and social networking Web sites. The four-section screen display option is perfect as a media center on the PC such as photos, music, videos and to view/edit documents.
When the display was connected once again to the notebook base, it ran Windows 7 like any other laptop. Engadget had more info on the hardware specs of this hybrid PC, as it ran on an Intel CULV processor when in laptop mode, and a Snapdragon CPU when the display was used as a stand-alone tablet. It also had a 128 SSD for storage in the notebook form, while the tablet had eight hours. CNET said the battery life while in notebook mode was 10 hours, and the stand-alone display could last about eight hours on one charge. It supported both WiFi and 3G wireless.
The Lenovo IdeaPad U1 certainly got a lot of media attention at CES 2010, and it won a number of awards from media outlets like CNET, which named its the best computer of the show. The Wall Street Journal also named it as one of the top 10 gadgets at CES 2010.
Lenovo said the IdeaPad U1 would launch in June 2010 for $999. However, that date came and went with no such release. In September 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported (via PC World) that the company had decided to delay the release until 2011 “because it did not meet company standards” It also said that the product might get a redesign.
In January 2011, Lenovo showed off the new version of the IdeaPad U1 at CES. Liliputing got some hands-on time with the new version, which now had a 10.1 detachable tablet that ran Android 2.2 with Lenovo’s own custom UI. The plan was to launch the product in China first, for a price of $1,300, and then later in the US.
However, the product never actually got launched anywhere, at least officially. Engadget revealed in July 2011 that the device actually made it to the Federal Communications Commission for approval, but that’s about as far as it got. The IdeaPad U1 was definitely a product well ahead of its time, but the company seemed to quietly cancel its launch. Today, the idea of a hybrid tablet-notebook device is pretty common, and we do have to wonder if Lenovo’s product served as an inspiration for those future hybrid devices.