Lenovo introduces multitouch for business with ThinkPad X200 tablet PC, T400s laptop

Summary:Lenovo on Tuesday announced its ThinkPad X200 Tablet PC and ThinkPad T400s laptop, both with capacitive multitouch technology for business users and "SimpleTap," a proprietary interface for touch applications.

Lenovo on Tuesday announced its ThinkPad X200 Tablet PC and ThinkPad T400s laptop, both with capacitive multitouch technology for business users and "SimpleTap," a proprietary interface for touch applications.

Designed for mobile users in sales, healthcare and education, the optional touchscreen ThinkPad X200 Tablet (pictured at right) supports one- and two-finger touch to perform a variety of gestures, including pinching, zooming, tapping and flicking through documents, web pages and photos. It also manages nine hours of battery life.

The higher-performance ThinkPad T400s laptop (pictured at top) is intended for professionals in engineering and design, and offers four-finger touch capability to manipulate objects, move images with two hands or collaborate with another person on the same screen, simultaneously.

While multitouch is still in its infancy in business applications, Lenovo said now was the right time to implement it on its PC lineup:

"With touch screens increasingly becoming part of more devices we use routinely, and continued improvement of the technology -- including the integration of touch in the upcoming Windows 7 operating system -- the environment for making touch part of our tablet PC and ThinkPad T400s laptop experience couldn’t be better," said Sam Dusi, Lenovo vice president of worldwide ThinkPad product marketing, in a statement. "We've also extended the touch experience with Simple Tap to make frequent hardware-based functions touch-enabled and simple."

Lenovo says it has optimized the firmware to help compensate for imprecise taps on the screen in troublesome areas of the Windows operating system, such as when you try to close a maximized window by trying to press the "X" in the very corner of the screen.

The screens are coated with an anti-fingerprint layer.

I had a chance to take the touchscreen laptops for a spin in person, and while I found the concept of a touchscreen on a clamshell notebook to take some getting used to, I found the implementation on both the X200 tablet and the T400s to be very intuitive. With a little practice, it becomes a great way to compensate for the mouse- (but not touch-) optimized design elements of the Windows 7 interface, such as the minimize/maximize/close buttons in the top right corner and the Start Menu.

No doubt it will take some development time before multitouch truly shows its capabilities and potential in Windows 7, particularly on a traditional clamshell machine. But Lenovo said it was the right time for the move, and that premiums for the technology will only grow smaller as it grows beyond the niche.

SimpleTap touch UI

To make multitouch more intuitive, Lenovo designed SimpleTap, a graphical user interface offering large virtual buttons -- "tiles" -- as stand-ins for hardware-based functions. The intention? To avoid opening the tablet PC to adjust volume, preview the camera, lock the screen, set the computer to sleep or toggle mute.

SimpleTap is activated by a double tap anywhere on the screen. simply double tap anywhere on the screen to launch the application. Customized "tiles" can be made to serve as shortcuts, such as to a needed presentation, document or website.

A single tap exits the application.

Here's a video of SimpleTap in action:

In person, I found it to be quite useful in avoiding the need to crack open the tablet PC to perform simple tasks. Moreover, customizing the tiles was effective way to be prepared for a business presentation, with the ability to quickly call on a PowerPoint presentation, PDF or website with one tap.

Optional direct-sunlight screen

Finally, Lenovo is offering users a "super-bright outdoor screen" that can display images in direct sunlight (as well as function perfectly fine indoors). Intended for professionals who work outside, a new optional outdoor screen on the ThinkPad X200 Tablet offers a 400 nit screen, 1.2 percent reflectivity and wide viewing angle.

How's it work? The screen is coated with multiple anti-reflective layers and uses direct bonding technology to avoid air gaps in the screen, the company says.

Having seen the screen in person, I can attest that it was quite bright and did a reasonably good job at deflecting direct light.

Pricing and availability

The ThinkPad T400s with a multitouch screen is available now, starting at $1,999.

The ThinkPad X200 Tablet with a multitouch screen and outdoor screen is available now for $1,654 (multitouch only) and $1,704 (multitouch + outdoor).

The SimpleTap application will be available for download after October 22.

Specs on the X200 tablet PC:

  • starts at 3.5 lbs.
  • up to 10.4 hours of battery life
  • about one inch thick
  • 85-degree viewing angle
  • supports stylus and finger touch
  • WLAN, WWAN with GPS
  • digital dual array microphones
  • stereo speakers
  • 1.3-megapixel camera
  • CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive
  • Security: Bios disable on all ports, optional fingerprint reader, etc.
  • Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11b/g, WiMax (in some areas)
  • up to 256GB SSD with full-disk encryption
  • up to 4GB 1066GHz DDR3 memory
  • low voltage Intel Core 2 Duo processors (1.60, 1.86 and 2.13GHz)
  • 12.1-inch LED WXGA display
  • Intel GMA 4500 graphics
  • 3 USB 2.0, RJ-45, VGA, line in/out, card reader

Specs on the T400s laptop:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo processors (2.4, 2.53GHz)
  • starts at 3.91 lbs. and 0.83 in. thick
  • 14-inch WXGA+ LED blackit display (1440 x 990)
  • 9.5mm optical drive (Blu-ray, DVD, CD)
  • VoIP optimized with hardware controls, 2 megapixel camera, dual digital microphones
  • WLAN, WWAN, WiMAX, Bluetooth, UWB
  • 3 USB 2.0; Express Card slot or card reader; VGA; DisplayPort; line in/out, RJ-45
  • Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics
  • 80GB, 128GB SSD; 120GB, 250GB SATA HDD
  • 802.11 b/g/n
  • Battery of up to 5.5 or 8.5 hours
  • up to 4GB DDR3 1067MHz memory

Topics: Lenovo, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

About

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. He is also the former editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation. He writes about business, technology and design now but used to cover finance, fashion and culture. He was an intern at Money, Men's Vogue, Popular Mechanics and the New York Daily Ne... Full Bio

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