It was 2012 and the tablet market had lost its mojo. The category was lacking in breakthrough innovation and gave users few reasons to buy a new tablet. However, Jeff Meredith, vice president and general manager of Android and Chrome Computing Lenovo, knew the tablet market had more to give and set out to reignite the category.
It took three years for Jeff and his team to crack this nut, but we think you’ll agree the end result of research and innovation, testing, designing and planning has brought to market something that sparks ideas, can propel this market forward and inspire users to buy again.
The keyboard question – was a touch keyboard too bold?
During the summer of 2013, Tablet Product Development vice president Zhang Hua challenged each engineer on his team to develop a tablet that would give consumers a compelling reason to upgrade their old tablets. A touch panel keyboard design, submitted by David Zheng, a Lenovo engineer in Beijing and team manager, addressed a common tablet pain point and one of the main reasons tablets weren’t for everyone: productivity. A touch panel keyboard would let users type faster, addressing tablets’ deficiency in productivity, while keeping the device thin and light for portability.
The idea of a touch keyboard was not new, but focus group research revealed that current models left users frustrated. In fact, user testing showed two major complaints: high error rates, and the need to constantly switch between keyboard layouts (from letters and numbers to symbols). Lenovo engineers saw these inadequacies as an opportunity and got to work innovating.
While fine-tuning numerous prototypes over the next few months, the engineering team determined that a keyboard that learned a user’s habits was the key to overcoming the touch keyboard hurdle. The more a user typed on the keyboard, the more the software within needed to improve and adapt to the user’s personal style – whether “hunt-and-peck” or touch typist.
These typing developments paid off. A critical round of focus group testing showed that the prototype Yoga Book halo keyboard allowed users to post speeds comparable with that of a physical keyboard after just a few hours of use. With the halo keyboard, they were typing 66 percent faster than on a normal tablet’s keyboard, while making 39 percent fewer mistakes.
A keyboard was not going to be enough to spark the tablet market back to growth. Lenovo next turned its attention to other ways to grab the attention of a broader audience.
It writes, it’s light, it bends
The promise of a tablet has always been the ability to write on it. Again, this technology has faulted and disappointed, but Lenovo was ready to tackle this by enabling its innovation to function as a notebook and emulate natural writing behavior.
After brainstorming, the team focused on the idea of providing a notebook mode that used pen technology that was interchangeable with electronic and paper input. The solution required three technologies – Real Pen, Wacom-feel pen input and electromagnetic resonance (EMR). Together the technologies would allow users to draw, sketch or take notes on the panel of the halo keyboard when in drawing mode, and switch to writing on traditional paper as they make notes and sketches in a completely interchangeable way.
Not only was the team dedicated to developing Real Pen technology, but they also maintained the vision for ultimate portability. The original design called for 10.88mm thickness, the thinnest on the market. But to balance functionality with productivity, the team determined 9.6mm had to be the thickness. This meant the original Yoga notebook hinge was too large for the device to close properly. A smaller hinge became necessary.
The original Yoga hinge incorporated four axial rods on which the notebook could rotate and mandated the need for an even number of axial rods. The team redesigned the hinge to accommodate an odd number of rods, reducing it to three axial rods.
“When adapting four-rods to a three-rod design, we had to relocate the two syncing gears that linked the rods and kept them in place,” said Lenovo engineer Wang Lijun. “We also added some parts to add some torque between these two gears.”
It took a while to make this new 180-degree hinge durable and reliable enough for continual use. For example, it failed numerous drop tests. The panels would often misalign. And because the hinge only contained three axial rods, the set-up would be much less sturdy and forgiving than a normal hinge when rotated. It snapped apart numerous times. But these set-backs only encouraged the team to push harder to make the hinge work as designed. They ultimately added a magnet to the bottom panel, allowing the Yoga Book to stay shut.
Lenovo’s tablet market spark – The Yoga Book
Following Jeff Meredith’s ambition to revitalize the tablet market and thanks to the tireless efforts of Lenovo’s engineering team, Lenovo introduced the Yoga Book in August 2016 at IFA in Berlin. As the world’s thinnest and lightest 2-in-1 tablet, designed for unmatched productivity on the go, many of our customers are excited to experience how the Yoga Book is “rewriting the tablet” and changing users’ expectations for their productivity devices.
We’ve invested countless hours of research, development and engineering talent in our effort to make the Yoga Book a top-flight option in the tablet market, and we’re looking forward to seeing the innovative ideas and concepts our customers can bring to life with the help of this revolutionary device.