CES Wrap Up

An internal assignment to consider the implications of competitor CES announcements with respect to Lenovo’s future strategy got me thinking about the implications of CES 2010.  As a result, you get an unasked for bonus post. I was really impressed with the maturity and collaboration that went into our three star products of CES 2010.  Though LePhone, IdeaPad U1, and Skylight all appear to be separate products, they really are not since they all feature variants of our Skylight interface.  I answered many questions about the software platforms each runs on.  The LePhone runs Android.  Skylight runs a Linux variant (Blue Thunder I think), and the U1 is Linux/Windows hybrid.  But the underpinnings are just an ingredient that delivers our user experience. As such, we could mix and match the infrastructure and I doubt anyone would know the difference.  In other words, this is a major step to making the operating system irrelevant, though I am not willing to turn my computing life over to the cloud and run everything browser based just yet. Speaking of the U1, we have the best implementation of a slate tablet EVER.  It is inevitable that we will be compared to the Apple Tablet when it announces, but from a hardware standpoint, I’m not sure how Apple can beat 1.5 lbs. and 8 hours of 3G browsing.  When they do announce, ignore any technology journalist that spends more than 25% of his/her column on the Apple hardware.  Instead, you are going to want to read their analysis of the integration of digital content into this device and how it fits into Apple’s strategy.  I’m more interested in reading about how Apple will partner with Rupert Murdoch to get people to pay for content and how the rest of the industry can capitalize on this.  You will want to know how paying for previously free content will rock your world.  Or perhaps instead you will want to read about how their new partnership with Netflix which will allow iTunes users to get fresh movie releases ahead of their new 24 day waiting period.  Or perhaps how Apple expects its own proprietary eBook format to triumph over all others. 3D was big this year.  You will soon be able to buy 3D out the yin yang on a variety of devices.  Indeed, Panasonic won the coveted Best in Show for their VT25 3D television.  We participated in the fun and were showing off a prototype 3D display on our IdeaPad Y460.  I was glad to see that we are working 3D technology, but I think it is kind of gimmicky at this point.  I don’t really want to wear glasses to watch TV, and I can only imagine the nightmare that a 3D Excel spreadsheet with X, Y, and Z column addresses would be.  But given time, there may be some breakthrough killer app. RCA has come up with a home run with their Airnergy Wi-Fi power system.  It takes Wi-Fi signals streaming through the air and converts them into usable electricity to charge your batteries.  I don’t expect to throw away my power adapter, but imagine if you could completely negate the power draw of your wireless radios to improve battery life by 30 minutes or more.  Plus, your system would constantly be on trickle charge when it was sitting in your bag.  This is yet another game changer that needs to be incorporated into every notebook battery pack NOW. So how does Lenovo win Best in Show for 2011?  If I was the one making decisions about priorities within Lenovo, here are some things I would do.  (By the way, don’t read anything into any of the following.  These are daydreams of Matt Kohut going “if I were in charge...”that neither reflect our current strategy nor our product plans.  The business world is going to howl in protest, but one thing that is very clear to me from CES 2010 is that consumers are going to drive the business world to change and adopt new changes in technology faster.  As such, the business world insists on a lot of technology that is holding the PC industry back: 

  • I am talking about you, serial port.  I know that you are used to connect to routers, airline ticket printers, industrial machinery, and lab test equipment all over the world.  You are embedded so deeply that we’ll still use you 20 years from now.  But you’re slow.  You require stupid direct access to the underlying hardware.  You prevent things like hot undocking and cause operating systems to crash.  The sooner PC vendors say “we’re not going to include you any more” is when we finally get to a new level of stability.
  • VGA ports – You’re also embedded deep, but you’re so 1980s.  The world is going to high bandwidth HDMI (more below).
  • Slide in Smart Card readers – Why would I want to use one of these when I can use a contact-less proximity Smart Card?  These slots take up valuable room and cause me heartburn every time a customer brings the topic up for discussion.
  • ExpressCard – it is time for you to die too.  You had your chance, but the only thing really left to use you are some high speed memory card readers.  External 3G WAN cards are mostly USB based these days.  USB 3.0 has all of the bandwidth we need.  Why should we waste valuable space in our notebooks for a slot that 95% of our customers never use?

Second, I would add a touch screen to our IdeaCentre A300 all-in-one. Third, I would immediately give up on DisplayPort in favor of HDMI across the entire Lenovo lineup.  I know that DisplayPort v1.2 was announced with features like daisy chaining and more USB back channel bandwidth, but in my personal opinion, if people are going to connect all of these digital devices, HDMI or Intel WiDi connecting via HDMI is the way to go. While walking around, I saw projectors, TVs, cameras and more all using HDMI.  One large hotel customer of ours has HDMI ports in their rooms.  If the world is going to HDMI, we should enable all of our products to connect via this interface. Fourth, I’m done fretting over 4:3 vs. 16:10 vs. 16:9 displays.  The world has moved to 16:9 and I should just get over it.  I’d accelerate changing all products to 16:9 and focus on those display technologies that can improve the quality of the display like OLED.  I had one gentleman from the OLED consortium try and tell me that he expected all netbooks to have OLED in 2 years.  I think he is smoking something funny, but we’ll see a LOT more OLED based products in 2011.  OLED should improve the quality of displays for everyone and then we can just forget about TN vs. PVA vs. IPS LCD discussion. Fifth, I did not write about our IdeaPad S10-3t, but the more I think about it, I probably should have.  For the tablet PC world, this is a game changer.  Dual swivel display.  Active Protection System.  Super bright 2 finger capacitive touch display.  160GB HDD.  $499.  That is a lot of computer for the price.  I would create a product that is a hybrid of the ThinkPad X100e and the IdeaPad S10-3t specifically for the education market.  I would call it the IdeaStation and use it to steamroll over every competitor in the classroom.  It would have the computing power and build quality of the X100e but feature the bright display and touch screen capabilities of the S10-3t.  To enable stylus writing capability, I would change the display touch technology to resistive.  Add color choices, price it at $599, and we would not be able to keep it in stock.


ThinkPad X100e.