Here's how you unveil a product and make sure no one hears about it: Bury the news in a press release the same day you announce you're buying an iconic tech company for $3 billion. That's right: Everyone was so busy pontificating on whether Lenovo would ruin Motorola, that barely anyone noticed the company had also announced a kid's laptop. Well, we just had a chance to get hands-on with the new ThinkPad 11e ahead of its release, and while we might not normally care about kiddie PCs, a few things stick out here. First off, this is actually a collection of four different laptops, with two running Windows and two based on Chrome OS. Kind of a peculiar strategy when you think about it: How often do we get that kind of choice on the same machine? Secondly, Lenovo's offering two form factors: a traditional non-touch notebook, and another with a touchscreen that folds back into a quasi-tablet mode. Yep, it's basically a wee little Yoga, with a hinge that rotates 360 degrees. And, you know, it potentially runs Chrome OS. Now you see why we're so intrigued, right? You grown-ups probably want one too.
But wait, there's one other thing you should know, and unfortunately, this is probably where we're going to lose some of you adults. As crazy as it sounds, this is actually the first ThinkPad that doesn't have that classic red TrackPoint in the middle of the keyboard. "What kind of sorcery is this?" you ask. Chalk it up to kids having atrocious motor skills. According to a Lenovo rep, the company was getting complaints from schools about kids ripping out those little red dots on the last-gen X131e Chromebook. Which is silly because they apparently feel more comfortable using the touchpad anyway. So, to spare teachers the repair cost, Lenovo nixed the TrackPoint on the new 11e, and also retooled the keyboard so that there's less space between the keys and their sockets (read: curious little children will now have a harder time wedging crap inside there).
Spec-wise, you're looking at a quad-core, Bay Trail-based Celeron processor, with a 16GB solid-state drive on the Chromebooks, and a choice of HDDs and SSDs on the Windows model. Look for the Windows machines to arrive later this month, priced at $449 for the regular notebook, and $549 for the Yoga-like one. Meanwhile, the Chromebooks will ship in late May or early June, with the laptop retailing for $349 and the convertible priced at $429.
Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Chromebook