Not surprisingly, Microsoft hasn't been the only company working on a tablet-laptop hybrid system. A U.S. patent application published late last month reveals that Lenovo has its own solution to the problem that the Microsoft Surface tries to address.
The patent application, which was actually filed way back on Christmas eve in 2010, is in some respects already outdated. For example, it describes a tablet with Android and an ARM processor that can be snapped into a base unit with a keyboard running Windows on Intel processors. A handful of related patent applications describe the way in which the two systems would work together, or as they say it in patent speak:
Systems and Methods for Achieving Continuation of Experience Between Components In a Hybrid Environment
That's just one title from one of the patent applications filed around the same time as the one for the tablet/laptop hybrid itself -- there's others for how the components communicate and switch back and forth, as well as share the display and wireless communications.
It seems highly unlikely that Lenovo would ever bring such an unwieldy Frankenstein's monster to market, seeing as how it's a Microsoft hardware partner committed to bringing Windows 8 systems to stores, but the Android/Windows example is explicitly "non-limiting" in the application, so the concept could still be executed with any combination of operating systems.
Back at CES in January, the folks from Lenovo gave me a chance to play with a much more elegant hybrid than the two-in-one tablet and docking concept laid out in these newly surfaced patent applications. Dubbed the Yoga, it's essentially something like an ultrabook with a keyboard that rotates around 360 degrees to hide itself behind a touch screen, transforming into a de facto tablet. Lenovo told me at the time that the plan was for the Yoga to debut in China as soon as Windows 8 was available, although it could also run Windows 7.
There is a patent application on file for a "Convertible PC Having a Waterproof Structure" from Lenovo that's remarkably similar to the Yoga. What's interesting is that it was filed four months prior to the filing of the hybrid, dual OS docking concept, meaning that Lenovo's been working on more than one hybrid concept for some time now, and perhaps hedging with multiple concepts that could work with or without a long-promised next-generation Windows OS.
It's a good thing Microsoft didn't know that one of their partners was considering such an unholy pairing of Android and Windows in a single system; it might have just driven Redmond to start making its own hardware. Hey, wait a second...
(Via Patent Bolt, U.S. Patent Office)