Windows 8 Update: Lenovo announces a tablet designed for the workplace

Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet 2 runs Windows 8

Lenovo is embracing Windows 8 with a made-for-Windows 8 tablet - the ThinkPad Tablet 2 - ready for when the new operating system launches in October and is pitching it for enterprises.

"While users will like the tablet for its aesthetics and powerful features," Lenovo says in a press release, "IT managers will particularly enjoy its security-enhanced and manageability technologies."

These include an optional fingerprint reader, encrypted internal and external storage. Windows 8 Pro models support VPN access and can be managed using an existing Windows tool. IT administrators can manage application deployment and block users from installing certain apps, the company says. Lenovo says it will offer sealed battery warranties, accidental damage protection and custom imaging among other add-on services.

QUIZ: Can you navigate Windows 8? 

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An optional keyboard and docking stand make it suitable "for more PC-like computing in the office," Lenovo says.

The company has no pricing yet, but the device is thin (9.8 mm) and versatile (it comes in 3G and 4G models with a USB port). Its screen is an ample 10.1 inches (the iPad's is 9.7 inches), and the device will based on a low-power Intel Atom processor, which should help boost battery life. It supports multi-fingered input and an optional digitizer and pen, and comes with front- and rear-facing cameras, noise-canceling microphones and an HDMI port.

At the same time, Lenovo is wooing developers to create Windows 8 applications that can be sold in the Lenovo section of the Windows store. In announcing the program the company mentioned some unique features of Lenovo devices that these apps will be able to utilize, but doesn't specify what they are. Lenovo says it will offer help developing and merchandising apps. The program starts next month, which is cutting it close to the Oct. 26 launch of Windows 8

Is this Windows 8 packaging?

The Verge got its hands on this image of Windows 8 packaging, one for the consumer version of the operating system and one for Windows 8 Pro, for the more technically sophisticated user.

There's no telling whether this actually is what Windows 8 will ship in come October.

No more Metro

For whatever reason, Microsoft has dumped the word Metro as the name for its graphics-centric design and touch-centric functionality as well as its applications written to the new Win RT application architecture.

The company claims Metro was never an official name, but that's all anybody's been using since Windows 8 was revealed last year, and people have become comfortable using the term. Some say there's a copyright flap over the name with a big German retailer named Metro and Microsoft is backing off. Regardless, Metro is officially not the name for anything Windows 8.

Replacing it: Windows 8 style UI. It flows off the tongue.

Next-gen Surface, angry OEMs

Microsoft hardware partners who thought that Windows 8 Surface tablets were a temporary annoyance better think again.

Microsoft is advertising for software, electrical, design-verification, hardware, component, materials, mechanical, and thermal-design engineers, and from the job descriptions, it sounds like Surface is going to be around for a while.

This from a posting for a senior hardware program manager on the Surface team: "You will be responsible for leading the definition and development from concept to prototype to implementation." That sounds like a product that hasn't even been designed yet, so Surface seems as if it's a long-term commitment.

But there's this qualification called for in a Surface software-development engineer posting that indicates there might not be a clear game plan yet: "High tolerance to ambiguity and ability make progress in the face of it."

As you might imagine, Microsoft's dedication to making its own hardware can upset its OEM partners who, until now, were responsible for making all the hardware that sold with Windows devices.

Finally Acer CEO JT Wang blew off some steam in an interview with the Financial Times:"We have said [to Microsoft] think it over. Think twice. It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction. It is not something you are good at so please think twice."

Another Acer executive, Campbell Kan, told the Financial Times that Microsoft's Surface makes his company rethink its role with Microsoft: "If Microsoft ... is going to do hardware business, what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?"

Two days later, Wang told Focus Taiwan that how much Acer is affected will depend on what Microsoft charges for Surface devices: "We've kept an eye on their pricing and channel strategies. The impact will be great if their tablet is priced as low as US$199, like the Kindle Fire. But the impact will be smaller if it is priced at $599 or $499."

Microsoft eats its own Windows 8 dogfood

Tech companies had better use their own technology if they hope to attract customers, and Microsoft is no different.

In a blog post the company's CIO Tony Scott says it has deployed Windows 8 to nearly 30,000 employees. While he doesn't go into how they liked it, he does outline how the IT department went about deploying and supporting the transition that businesses might learn from if they are considering something similar.

(Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Tim_Greene.)

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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Tim Greene

Network World
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