A pair of the most-anticipated mobile computers from this year's CES show were Lenovo's U1 Hybrid and Skylight smartbook. Both ran a custom widget-based Linux OS (sometimes also called Skylight), and were powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU. But since then, both devices seem to have fallen off the map, and now we think we know why. Both systems are getting a software overhaul, jumping to the Android platform in search of better performance and more usability.
We've been hearing for some time that both systems were being tweaked far beyond their original expected Spring 2010 debuts, and more recently, that Google's Android was being considered as a replacement OS. That now appears to be Lenovo's official line, as we've heard, and other news sites are also reporting, that the versions of the Skylight and U1 Hybrid we got our hands on at CES will never see the light of day. Our understanding is that the Skylight will almost definitely be reworked with Android, whereas the future of the U1 Hybrid, with its clever detachable tablet screen, is more up in the air.
Back in January, we got to use both devices, and though we liked the hardware and design, the software experience was definitely lacking. The interfaces looked great, but performance was slow and stuttered. A the time we chalked it up to the devices' early prototype status, but apparently Lenovo was never able to get them to work as smoothly as expected. And with the Apple iPad redefining consumer expectations of tablet and app-driven devices, the bar was set even higher.
What this means for the future of the consumer tablet market and the still largely hypothetical smartbook market remains to be seen. We still think both systems have a lot of potential, and if they need Android to complete the picture, we're all for it.