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Lenovo’s Next Chromebook Will Switch Physical Keyboard for Touch Panel

lenovo yoga book from the verge

Lenovo says it plans to launch a new Chromebook without a physical keyboard.

Instead, the device will use a brand-new touch panel that combines a backlit virtual keyboard, a gesture-sensitive trackpad and a graphics tablet.

The Lenovo Yoga Book is the company’s first attempt at weaning us off of physical keyboard input. The $499 device, unveiled at IFA 2016, is being sold with either Windows 10 or Android 6.0 and a versatile stylus for taking notes on the innovative touch surface.

Now a Chromebook version is also in the offing.

Lenovo says it spent 2 years developing the touch panel technology, which even allows a sheet of paper to be placed on the touch panel and notes written with a special stylus, automatically converted into digital notes on the device (sans optical character recognition).

A Yoga-branded Chromebook that uses the innovative touch panel, replacing a physical keyboard lock, stock and key, is planned, says Jeff Meredith, the vice president and general manager of the (lengthily named) ‘Android and Chrome Computing Business Group’ at Lenovo.

For now there’s no further word on this Yoga Chromebook. No specs, no pricing.

But with a bunch of work on stylus support landing in the Chromium codebase over the past few months, it seems to be a case of when, not if, we’ll see it emerge.

Top image credit: The Verge
  • If the “touch panel” was simply a secondary screen that had good touch screen capabilities that would make it really worth it. Then you could choose whether or not you want the second screen to be a keyboard / sketch pad / custom gamepad controls / or even a secondary screen so you could hold a two facing page book up. Any musician would love that option to carry their music library with them and to treat the two panel/screen device as more of a notebook…flipping pages.

    • Abhijeet

      Exactly my thoughts! I have been wishing for a 2 pane tablet for so long, hope it happens in the next version of yogabook.

      • Alex Harvey

        There have been three made that had two screens. All three were failures

  • João Santos

    Does the warranty cover new fingers for heavy users?

  • Kylie

    I’m intrigued by the graphics tablet, but not so much the panel keyboard or gesture typing.

  • ChrisGX

    The language used in the PC World article was equivocal: “More devices under the Yoga Book brand will follow, and the touch input panel will also go into an upcoming Chromebook.”

    There is currently no clear suggestion that there will be a Yoga Book styled Chromebook but rather only that the touch input panel will show up in a future Chromebook (which probably won’t be a Yoga Book). There is also the statement that the touch input panel will be featured in “a new line of 2-in-1s and laptops.” I would suggest that the statement would make more sense if it referred to not a Chrome OS version of the Yoga Book in the offing, but rather the expansion of the range of Android and Windows Yoga Books to include not only the laptops that have been seen already but also the mentioned 2-in-1s, which so far haven’t been demoed.

    The use of Android free of Chrome OS supplementation on small computing devices is unaccountably being treated as a nonviable strategy by commentators apparently unaware that the new Android freeform multi-window functionality that is slated to appear first on Chromebooks is actually based on Android APIs. Although some devices will benefit from the presence of Chrome OS it is not ultimately needed for the multi-windowing desktop experience – Android will be able to do that without Chrome OS support. I think the Android Yoga Book is akin to the Pixel C and I wouldn’t be surprised to see other manufacturers produce similar devices.

    That is not to doubt that more Chromebooks will be forthcoming from Lenovo. But I’m not sure the PC manufacturers want such a direct confrontation between Windows (the traditional and existing bread and butter of the manufacturers) and Chrome OS, within the same product families and under the same marketing banners, at this point.

    • evildrgnome

      Yes but a lot of times if you look closely at the hardware you will find that they rebrand the “flag ship” product and swapped out the os. (ie Chrome OS/LInux insead of Windows). Dell didnt even both to rebrand their ubuntu based “Developer machines” and take them out of the XPS series.

  • james___b

    Remember the Surface Touch Cover? Yeah, it was terrible. Innovative, but terrible.

  • No sure if want.

  • aretheregods

    I’ve already set aside however much money will be needed to buy it. This is the one I want.

  • Alex Harvey

    I definitely want this. I will be waiting it’s release

  • Just_Joe

    Touch-typists–as I am–rest their fingertips on the keyboard (as the name implies, always touching the keys). We expect a certain level of feedback from the keys. If this panel is “too sensitive” or too “dead”, then it just won’t work for us. Will have to wait ‘n’ see. Frankly, though, I’ve never viewed using a physical keyboard with my computer(s) as a problem to be overcome.

    • Laetitian

      Yeah, the resting thing is going to be really interesting. Any person designing a keyboard has to know about basic touch typing to qualify for their job. I am sure Lenovo is figuring out ways to adapt the sensitivity of the keyboard to include the resting hand position, and then provide feedback once a key is pressed. They will probably have to include an option for the driver to calibrate its sensitivity to the user.

      If they do not include those functionalities, the keyboard will fail. If they do include them well, all the people criticising the idea of “not feeling the keys” in this thread might actually be the type of poweruser that could most profit from such a versatile keyboard-design.

  • Mike Hill

    It’s a “no” from me Lenovo. Don’t be silly.

  • Fascinating. It will have its place, I’m sure. It won’t be the choice of people who do a lot of typing, though. Really, I want a ChromeBook that has an exact mechanical replica of an ASR-33 keyboard.

  • ARB

    Amusing, considering most of the Lenovo fans I know (or rather Thinkpad fans, to be fair) still haven’t gotten over the new smile-shaped keys introduced in like 2013. What innovations will they think of next? A keyboard made of pencil sharpeners, with levers actuated by the mass of the flesh shavings liberated? An acoustic keyboard, internally designed like a tiny piano, with a microphone embedded in the device constantly listening for and detecting the frequencies played? A mood ring that you strap to your index finger and types exactly what you want—what you *really* want, even if you don’t know it—based only on the thermal and conductive properties of your skin? The unstoppable march of progress never ceases to amaze me, even when the clifftop underneath it has ceased long ago.

  • The good part I see over here is that there won’t be any dirt getting under the keys. The bad part is… that there are no keys.I need to feel the keys, as it’s one of the most important things for me in order to get any real work done. I’m aware that a lot of people don’t even know how to use the keyboard properly, but I’m not one of them, so… No thanks.

  • Steed Benson

    Can’t wait for the Chromebook version and hopefully they upgrade the ports to the latest generation USB-C/Thunderbolt 3.

    • Andrew Gryaznov

      There is no way they will put a USB-C on a 2-year-old device.

      Shut up and take my money, though :)

      • Steed Benson

        Just because they started developing it two years ago doesn’t make it a 2 year old device.

  • juanjeremy2012

    man this thing is a joke. i bad keyboard, a slow cpu and a high price. no thanks

  • Daniel Thursfield

    Interesting design..but no physical keyboard?! No, thank you.

    Not a big fan of typing on a touch screen no feedback or at best some small vibration. Hard to write fast and accurate.

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  • Aayush Ganesh

    I tested this in a store. It was terrible to type on and cost twice as much as equivalent machines with much better keyboards.

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