Lenovo have just announced their earnings for Q1 2011, and in their statement they said something that I didn't consider to be true. They said they want to be leaders and focus on innovation, by being one of the first manufacturers to launch ultrabooks this year. That is fine, and even smart, but they shouldn't fool themselves into thinking they are actual leaders in the notebook market.
How can you be a leader when you're all *following* someone else? (in this case Apple). They are all being reactionary to Apple's moves and playing Apple's game. That's fine for us consumers, because we'll get more quality products from multiple manufacturers. But if they really want to be a "leader in innovation", they need to see what's next *after* this notebook paradigm, and start doing that right now.
What most of these companies do wrong is that they always "wait and see" until they can be "sure" there is a 500 million unit market. Until then they don't even try it. The problem with that is that by the time that new market gets to 500 million units, someone else (like the company pushing forward that market) is being considered the leader. So when they finally decide to enter the market, they realize there's not much room for them anymore, and everyone wants to buy from the one who built the market.
Apple didn't wait until 2012 to create slim Macbooks. They started doing them a few years ago, and they didn't have great sales at first, but now they do and they've learned a lot in the process, how to build them better, cheaper, etc. Plus, everyone else is following them, and the market will get huge, but they will remain the leader, because they built this market of ultra-slim notebooks, and now everyone else looks like a copycat.
Asus dominated the netbook market in the same way. They were the first to experiment (a lot) with them, even when only a few million people bought them in the first couple of years. And if they would pay more attention, they'll notice that Asus is once again showing them the way to the next notebook paradigm, which is ARM based notebooks, that are much cheaper than ultra-books but just as thin, last longer, and they even have a detachable tablet with touchscreen.
If Lenovo and others want to be the leaders of this new market (which will also be huge in a few years), they should start making quad-core ARM notebooks – today. Don't wait until late 2012 or 2013 when Apple will do it, too (and they *will* do it), and then follow them. They won't sell a lot of them at first, but by the time Apple does it and Windows 8 for ARM arrives, they'll already have one year experience with them, and people will know them as one of the best manufacturers that can make good ARM computers.
They don't have to wait for Windows 8 at all, since Windows 8 for ARM won't have any legacy app support anyway, and will just from scratch just like Android for tablets is starting today. So make Transformer style notebooks with touchscreen, the way Asus is doing. Get your foot in the door of the ARM notebook market. The Transformer style devices will be the future for both notebooks and tablets. You get the best of both worlds with them.
Think of it as an evolution of the notebook, in the way that they become more portable and have better interaction when you detach the tablet from them, but also an evolution of the tablet – making the tablet a device that can also be used for productivity, not just for consumption, like most tablets are used right now, which is also the reason most people treat them as unnecessary luxury devices. The Transformer style notebook should help bridge the gap from luxury and necessity.
Most people don't need a tablet, but they need a notebook. Therefore if all these manufacturers will want to be part of this future in which tablets exist and current style notebooks won't (or at least not as much – think PC's), they'll have to transition to the Transformer style notebooks, right now, not 1 or 2 years after Apple does it, and then be called copy-cats once again. ARM chips are already becoming powerful enough. Check out this Tegra 3 browser benchmark video: