Lenovo, best known in the U.S. for the ThinkPad business notebooks, said Friday it would officially launch an 11-inch consumer notebook next week.
The U110 is the smallest member of Lenovo's IdeaPad product line, which the company introduced early this year as it made its first big push into the U.S. consumer market. Lenovo showed off the sub-notebook, along with 17- and 15-inch IdeaPads, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. A month later, Lenovo launched a 13-inch ThinkPad, which competes with Apple's same-size MacBook Air.
A Lenovo spokeswoman said the company plans to "officially" launch the U110 on Tuesday and will then provide additional details on availability and which retailers will carry the 2.3-pound sub-notebook, which looks like a fashion accessory as much as it does a thin and slim notebook.
The U110 marks Lenovo's biggest departure from the ThinkPad workhorse. The computer comes in multiple colors and has a stylized, textured design embedded in its aluminum alloy cover. Among the most noticeable differences, besides the exterior, is the computer's keyboard, which has a shiny black finish that's flat to the touch as a person moves from one key to the next.
The machine also has full complement of ports, as well as a multi-card slot for taking a variety of flash memory form factors. The U110 is available with a solid-state flash drive instead of a hard drive for faster performance. Select models also have an "air bag-like device" to protect the hard drive if the computer is dropped. Further specs and pricing are expected next week.
The ultra-portable notebook is an example of the next wave of innovation expected from computer makers. An increasing number of people are expected to take their computers on the go, assuming that wireless Internet access becomes ubiquitous through emerging technologies such as WiMax.
As a result, notebooks are expected to get smaller, and analysts are predicting the emergence of a uniquely designed "mobile Internet device," which will fall between a notebook and a smart phone. The 7-inch Asus Eee PC and the Sony Vaio UX Micro PC are examples of where the industry is heading.
Lenovo in the first quarter was the fourth largest PC maker in the world in terms of shipments, according to Gartner. Hewlett-Packard and Dell were number one and two, respectively, and Acer was third. Lenovo was not among the top five in the U.S.