Lenovo is getting touchy-feely.
Today the Chinese PC maker, which has a headquarters in Morrisville, is unveiling new tablet and laptop computers designed to take advantage of Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system, which is scheduled to be released Oct. 22.
Lenovo, mindful that it's among a slew of PC makers trying to capitalize on Windows 7's new touch-screen capabilities, is introducing some software of its own in a bid to set itself apart from the competition.
Its new SimpleTap application, which works only with Lenovo's new touch-screen models, enables users to access basic functions with a double tap anywhere on the screen. That brings up a group of translucent "tiles," akin to icons, that enable you to touch the screen to adjust the volume or screen brightness, put your PC to sleep, turn on and off the microphone and the light that illuminates the keyboard, and more.
“It’s a step beyond easy-to-use. It’s fun to use,” said David Hill, vice president of brand management and design.
Users also can customize SimpleTap, which was developed by a team based in Morrisville. An insurance agent can create quick access to different claims forms with different tiles. Or consumers can put a favorite Web site at their fingertips.
“We want people to get into the mindset of using touch,” said Aaron Stewart, senior human factors engineer.
Popular products such as Apple’s iPod and iPhone have made consumers receptive to touch-screen functions, said technology analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group.
That may explain why a slew of touch-screen products are being released in conjunction with Windows 7. But Enderle said SimpleTap is one of the few new products that stand out.
How well that differentiation translates into sales is another matter. Lenovo is handicapped in the consumer market because it isn’t as widely available in stores as some of its rivals, Enderle said.
“For this to work, they need the shelf space,” he said. “People need to be able to touch it.”
Lenovo entered the U.S. market in 2005 when it acquired IBM’s PC business. But it initially focused on corporate sales and didn't enter the U.S. consumer market until last year.
Among the stores that sell Lenovo computers are CompUSA, RadioShack, AT&T stores, Tiger Direct and Fry's Electronics. Online retailers that feature Lenovo computers include Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and Newegg.com.But Best Buy stores don’t sell them.
The No. 4 PC maker, which employs 1,500 in Morrisville, has been cutting costs to boost efficiency in response to the global recession. The company’s global market share rose four-tenths of a percent to 8.6 percent in the second quarter, its highest since the IBM deal, but it posted another quarterly loss as competition forced it to cut prices.
SimpleTap is designed for two new Lenovo models being announced today: the ThinkPad X200 Tablet and the ThinkPad T400s laptop. The former offers an optional two-finger touch-screen for functions such as zooming in and rifling through documents and images. The latter is designed for engineers and designers – users can use four fingers to manipulate objects and shift images.
Both models are available immediately. But users who want to make optimum use of their touch capabilities may want to wait until Windows 7 comes out on Oct. 22; models purchased before then will have the Vista operating system. Also, SimpleTap won’t be available for free download for those models until after Oct. 22; next year SimpleTap will be pre-loaded on those models.
The X200 with multi-touch screen starts at $1,654; the ThinkPad T400s starts at $1,999.
Worried about smudges on your screen? Lenovo says the new models have a fingerprint-resistant coating.