Lenovo ThinkPad Hybrid X1: two operating systems, two processors, one laptop

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Two years ago, Lenovo showed up to CES with a little laptop called the Skylight which was powered by a Qualcomm ARM processor and ran a customized Linux OS. That product never made it to the market, but its legacy lives on in a laptop that Lenovo is announcing today: the ThinkPad X1 Hybrid. The Hybrid X1 looks exactly like the current ThinkPad X1 — the Gorilla Glass display, extremely comfortable keyboard, and .6-inch case have been kept intact. It even has very similar specs to the shipping X1 (Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, Windows 7, up to 8GB of RAM); but it has one key differentiator: it also has the guts of a high-end tablet or smartphone. An additional dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage live inside the chassis to power the laptop's secondary Linux operating system or "Instant Media Mode." Lenovo wouldn't comment on the Linux kernel it is using, but Engadget reports that it is based on Android, like we originally had heard.

We haven't seen the new operating system in action yet, but according to Lenovo, you will be able to switch to it directly by clicking on an icon on the Windows 7 desktop. Oddly, you cannot boot right into the Instant Media Mode (or IMM) — so it doesn't work like something like Splashtop or Microsoft's old SideShow — but when you do switch over, the Intel CPU and regular hard drive go to sleep. That means that you won't lose what you were working on in Windows, but since the x86 CPU and hard drive or SSD will be drawing little to no power, Lenovo's promising over ten hours of battery life when in the Linux OS. Speaking of working in that software, while we don't have a great handle on the design (all we have seen is one screenshot), it looks a lot like the four pane design Lenovo has been using on its Android tablets. It will have media apps, some productivity tools, and a web browser.

It sounds pretty crazy, but we're just not sure how useful that IMM software is going to be when you can just click into Windows. And we're also skeptical about how quickly you can move between the two operating systems. We promise to bring you all our first impressions of the X1 Hybrid later this week when we are on the ground in Vegas. We're also currently trying to get a better idea of when the X1 Hybrid will be hitting the market, but for now Lenovo has said it will be for sale during the second quarter of 2012 for $1,599.


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