While many in the gadget business love to talk about the technical advances hidden inside their devices, the truth is, nothing makes the same degree of impact as an obvious change in the physical design, or form factor, of the device. The debut of foldable smartphones such as the Samsung (OTCPK:SSNLF) Galaxy Fold or Motorola (NYSE:MSI) updated Razr, for example, continues to drive the kind of surprise and delight among customers and potential buyers that many companies would love to have.
Advanced new processors, additional connectivity ports, improved cameras and other internal improvements are also clearly important, but in an age when so many products are starting to look the same, an interesting new design of a popular device is bound to get many. attention With that in mind, it’s not a big surprise that the unveiling of both a Lenovo ( OTCPK:LNVGY )-branded laptop design and a Motorola-branded smartphone with extendable screens at last week’s Lenovo Tech World 2022 event received a lot of coverage. Both devices are based on flexible OLED display technology that uses a rollable design, allowing the screens to expand to a larger size at the push of a button.
To be clear, both devices were clearly labeled as concept designs with no firm release date, but they offered an interesting look at new ways to think differently about some of our most common devices. In its own way, each design addressed the almost universal desire for larger screen sizes without the equally universal concern of not having to carry large devices, making them instantly appealing. Unfortunately, given the state of rollable display technology manufacturing and the physical demands that consumer-grade devices would face, it will likely be several years before we see commercial implementations of this technology in these types of devices. (LG launched a rollable OLED screen TV, but it took many years to finally come to market and currently costs around $40,000.)
Still, it’s great to see Lenovo pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and it’s yet another example of the company’s long history of driving innovations in physical design. Lenovo’s original Yoga series of notebooks, for example, was the first example of a 360-degree folding hinge design for computers that has since become commonplace. The company is also on its second-generation folding computer design with the latest iteration of the ThinkPad X1 Fold, as well as the second version of its foldable Motorola Razr smartphone. In all cases, they are interesting examples of the strong focus the company has had on form factors.
Remember that Lenovo bought the IBM PC business in 2005, and the innovation culture that led to the development of the ThinkPad laptop – which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.th anniversary and is arguably the archetype of modern laptop designs – clearly continued when Lenovo took over the reins. Of course, not all innovative designs prove to be market successes, and Lenovo, like all other major PC vendors, has had some interesting concepts that haven’t received much acceptance. However, there is no doubt that when it comes to fascinating new possibilities or interesting new form factor innovations for computers, Lenovo is probably the first company to try them. In many cases, that means they’re also the first company to bring them to the mainstream.
That same spirit of experimentation and new thinking is beginning to reach other product categories as well, as Lenovo has focused a lot recently on XR (eXtended Reality) headsets and other metaverse-related developments. Last year, the company debuted its ThinkReality A3 AR (Augmented Reality) glasses, and last month, they were one of the first companies to debut an advanced business-focused VR (Virtual Reality) headset, the ThinkReality VRX, which offers color video. passing ability. This allows the device to switch from full VR mode to an AR-like Mixed Reality (MR) experience where digitally created content can be superimposed on the real world view offered by two high-resolution cameras on the front of the headset.
While both headphones have similarities to existing devices, they also integrate some unique hardware to help them stand out. As for the A3, Lenovo chose to go with a tethered design that requires a cable to either certain models of GPU-equipped Lenovo computers or certain Motorola cell phones. While that means the device can’t operate by itself, it shrinks the design to a much slimmer, more goggle-style design than devices like Microsoft’s ( MSFT ) HoloLens 2 .
Lenovo’s VRX shares some similarities with the recently released Meta (META) Quest Pro (although Meta Quest Pro debuted after the Lenovo VRX). Both devices are based around the latest Snapdragon XR Gen2+ chipset from Qualcomm (QCOM) and feature the latest pancake optics for a wider field of view. Lenovo’s new headset can work on its own or be connected to a computer for a higher quality experience. In fact, Lenovo has partnered with Nvidia (NVDA) for cloud-based, GPU-powered experiences through Nvidia CloudXR. The Lenovo device is also the first VR-capable headset that is able to work with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces, a software development environment that was initially created to build content for AR headsets. By equipping the VRX with the hardware (and software) needed to support Snapdragon Spaces, Lenovo is once again reflecting their desire to bring new types of functionality to existing product categories.
As with all device manufacturers, Lenovo continues to drive major advances with its technology partners to the inside of its devices. In addition, it is working on important new software tools, services and development environments for many of them, including the multi-vendor Engage XR power for its headphones. However, the company’s focus on form factor innovations gives it a unique opportunity as the world looks for more unique and differentiated designs.
Disclaimer: Some of the author’s clients are vendors in the technology industry.
Disclosure: No one.
Editor’s Note: The summary bullets for this article were selected by Seeking Alpha editors.