It's a laptop. It's a tablet. It's both.
As consumers begin to migrate more and more to touchscreen technology, Microsoft is helping PC makers trying to bridge both worlds with hybrids: combination tablets and notebooks coming from Lenovo, Dell, HP, Asus and Samsung and backed by co-op dollars from Intel and a major push from Microsoft. And while it's not the first time that similar technology has been tried, players like these need to move in this direction as touchscreen usage becomes more ubiquitous.
Lenovo, the world's second-largest PC maker, just introduced its first line of convertible PCs along with "the single biggest marketing launch we've ever done," said Chief Marketing Officer David Roman. The campaign backs four new convertible products, which fold, twist or detach, but will first feature the IdeaPad Yoga, an Ultrabook laptop with a tablet screen that folds completely flat. The Yoga 13 will make its debut Oct. 26 with an MSRP of $1,099, and the Yoga 11 will be available in December for $799, both exclusively at Best Buy initially.
The ad campaign, created by Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, advances Lenovo's U.S. brand personality of urban adventure intrigue. Shot in Hungary over seven days, the 90-second cinema and 30-second TV spots feature a James Bond-like female character on the move with a Yoga computer. Executive Creative Director Brian Carley said the spy film noir footage, directed by Casino Royale's Martin Campbell, intentionally leaves the storyline open for sequels. The video, print, digital and social-media creative highlight the Yoga's four possible configurations: stand, tablet, tent and laptop.
Mr. Roman wouldn't reveal the exact budget; he did say it's in the "tens of millions." It is also Lenovo's first unified-message global campaign. "We want Lenovo not just to be part of the change, but to be leading that change," he said, noting that it has been experimenting with hybrid formats for several years.
It was more than 10 years ago when Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates predicted his combined tablet and PC device would become the next big thing in the computer industry. And that didn't exactly go as planned. But there's a big difference this time: Windows 8 is the first PC operating system built specifically for touch use. Whether the hybrid products are a new category or just reinvented tablets and PCs, analysts agree that Microsoft is betting that the future lies in the combined power of tablet and PC.
"The strategic shift by Microsoft is to leverage the strength it has in the existing OS to advance in the tablet marketplace," said Forrester analyst Frank Gillett.
But can the "new" convertibles live up to the hype ? Doubters have history on their side. Last year's Intel-driven Ultrabooks were supposed to be the next big thing, but IHS iSuppli recently slashed its spring projection of 22 million sold in 2012 to just 10 million by the end of the year. A couple of years ago, netbooks were said to be the next big thing in PCs, but overexpectant consumers and underperforming devices collapsed the category in less than two years.
Mr. Gillett expressed concern about Microsoft's Windows 8 tagline, "No compromises," because as he pointed out, "There are always compromises."
"It's all theory until you get them in users' hands. The biggest market test is when you ship a million of them out into the market, and see if they stay in market," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group.
Count on an onslaught of marketing before there is any definitive answer to that question. The product proliferation and the marketing expected to come with it, including Microsoft's own Windows 8 multitiered campaign and co-op contributions for device makers, add up to an upcoming massive marketing blitz. It will be difficult to watch popular TV or sports programs in the weeks ahead without seeing a Windows 8 spot after it launches Oct. 26, said Windows OEM VP Peter Han in this YouTube video. He noted that the company will dole out 1.6 billion impressions for Windows 8, or five for every man, woman and child in the United States.