Lenovo will ditch hard keyboards in planned Chromebook and 2-in-1s

Lenovo will release a Chromebook and a line of 2-in-1 Yoga Books with a touch panel instead of a hard keyboard

Lenovo's new Yoga Book will be a sleek folding laptop with stunning secrets inside.

Opening up the device reveals a big surprise: It has no hard keyboard. The keyboard area instead has a versatile touch panel that turns into a smartphone-like virtual keyboard, a draw pad, or a digital notepad.

The new touch input panel, which has a back-lit virtual keyboard, is a big deal for Lenovo. It will be featured in a new line of 2-and-1s and laptops and is Lenovo's ambitious attempt to break a decades-old habit of using one-dimensional hard keyboards.

The Yoga Book will be the company's first product with a touch panel replacing a hard keyboard to type, draw, or take notes. Its price will start at US$499, and come with Windows or Android. Lenovo hasn't provided a shipment date for the device.

More devices under the Yoga Book brand will follow, and the touch input panel will also go into an upcoming Chromebook, Jeff Meredith, Lenovo’s vice president and general manager of the Android and Chrome Computing Business Group, said in an interview.

"You'll probably see products in both the Android and Windows systems. Most likely you'll see a product in the Chrome ecosystem," Meredith said.

The Yoga Book has a full HD 10.1-inch touchscreen and can be used as a laptop or tablet. The input panel -- which replaces the keyboard -- won't hurt Yoga Book's estimated 13 hours of battery life, Meredith said.

Regular paper can be placed on the input panel to take notes, which will be entered into the device. Lenovo will include an ink pen that also serves as a stylus.

It wasn't an easy decision to remove the hard keyboard, which has has been battle-tested in computers for decades. The new input panel took two years to develop and test and will appeal to a young, mobile-first crowd used to virtual keyboards on mobile devices, Meredith said.

The virtual keyboard panel could also be popular in Chromebooks, which now support Android apps and are popular in educational environments.

Students love to draw and write with a pen, and the input panel will provide that capability, Meredith said. That versatility is not available with hard keyboards, which can restrict a child's creativity.

The virtual keyboard panel in Yoga Book has to be turned off to draw or take notes with a stylus. Lenovo, in its two-year study, found that stylus usage on a regular display wanes after a few months, but a separate touch panel to take notes would be appealing to users.

Lenovo has included some mobile typing features in Yoga Book. It will include autocorrect and predictive text, which speeds up typing with suggestions. Algorithms will help the device pick up user typing trends over time.

Meredith acknowledged there may be some apprehension about the new keyboard, and it may take time for users to get used to typing on a touch panel. The change may be similar to the time needed for BlackBerry owners to get used to virtual keyboards on smartphones.

Hard keyboards will still be needed, especially for heavy typists.

"If you're banging out spreadsheets, most likely this isn't the right product," Meredith said.

The Yoga Book won't immediately have optical character recognition technology for notes taken via stylus on the touch panel. The feature is planned for the future, Meredith said.

The Yoga Book will have 4GB memory, 64GB storage, an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 2-megapixel front camera, and a microSD slot for expandable storage. It runs on an Intel Atom processor code-named Cherry Trail.

Dual-panel laptops and tablets introduced in the past haven't survived long. Toshiba Libretto W100 and Kno, which shipped in 2010 with full-blown color screens, didn't stick around.

But Lenovo has done a significant amount of research and testing and believes the time is right to launch the Yoga Book.

"We wanted to make sure the experience hit the mark," Meredith said. "For those in the 20s and teens, there's not much reluctance to a touch-based keyboard."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?