Lenovo is using the Consumer Electronics Show as a showcase for a new category it's calling "table PCs" that it hopes has the potential to create a new paradigm for computing.
Making its public debut this week, the IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC has a 27-inch touch screen and can be laid flat on a table and simultaneously used by two or more people to play games or use other applications. The current plan is to bring it to market first in China in April and then to the U.S. before the beginning of summer with a price point starting at $1,700, according to Lenovo Chief Marketing Officer David Roman. (The lag between the China launch and the U.S. launch is to ensure that enough apps have been redeveloped for the device to enable a good experience; Lenovo has an active developer network in China.)
While Horizon is being designed for a family environment, with the likes of Electronic Arts and Ubisoft teeing up a stable of games for it, Mr. Roman thinks the workplace could be an even more compelling use case. For example, a production staff could potentially use a table PC to collaboratively edit a design.
"I think a lot of the creative professions would be a logical first step," he said.
The category Lenovo is hoping to pioneer is not exactly new, as Microsoft's original Surface device was a 30-inch touchscreen tabletop that it released in 2007. At $10,000 a pop, it got little traction apart from a few hotel lobbies and a smattering of retailers. At a consumer-friendly price, Lenovo sees a new market.
However, Lenovo isn't the only hardware maker to try to resurrect the idea for this CES. According to ZDNet, Sony, Asus and Panasonic all showed off over-sized tablets that can be used while laid flat, but Lenovo's screen is easily the largest.
NPD Analyst Richard Shim noted in a blog post that the table PCs, along with the rise of a hybrid device coined "phablets" -- half tablet, half phone -- are ushering in a new era where the forms that traditionally defined devices are blurring.
"The traditional lines that have been used to define, categorize, and track devices are expected to only become more difficult to maintain, " he wrote. "We anticipate that brands will experiment with new designs and form factors in search of versions that will resonate with consumers to drive adoption."
Though Lenovo's Mr. Roman doesn't anticipate high sales volume from Horizon at the outset, the response to it at CES has helped convince him that an investment should be made in marketing it this year, even if the main value for now will be in branding.
"We've found that in the technology space, it's cool products that define a company," he said. Lenovo used last year's CES to introduce its foray into another new category: convertible PCs that can be reconfigured into tablets. It's since poured money into marketing them in its biggest-ever launch centering on the IdeaPad Yoga 11, which began this fall. The TV spot following the exploits of a James Bond-like heroine and prominently features Windows 8 (Horizon also run on that Microsoft system) and its interface of colorful boxes.
Notwithstanding the reports of Windows 8's weak sales, Mr. Roman asserts that early adopters are on board and the release of new apps for the operating system will help attract new customers.
"I think that when you look at the adoption curve, it's where it should be," he said.
In terms of other marketing pushes for 2013, Mr. Roman also says that Lenovo's new cloud-based services, currently in beta, will get serious treatment. The core idea is that people's Lenovo devices will be synchronized so that all of their content, like their Netflix app, will be available upon logging in, regardless of whether they first accessed it on a smart TV or a tablet.
"We won't really be talking about the cloud as such, but what the cloud enables," he said.