First the good news: Lenovo realized that nobody wants to use a custom Linux-based user interface with virtually no third party apps on the company’s upcoming Skylight smartbook and Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid tablet/laptop device. So Lenovo is killing the Skylight OS project and will instead use Google Android on those two devices.
Now the bad news: that means Lenovo is pushing back the launch dates for both the Skylight and the IdeaPad U1.
At this point it’s not clear when either product will reach the market. But hopefully by the time they do, they’ll be able to access the tens of thousands of Google Android apps that make mobile devices more than simply portable web browsers.
Lenovo is also leaving open the possibility of using software and technologies besides Google Android. But since Lenovo’s first smartphone is Android-based, Android seems like a good fit for the Skylight and U1 Hybrid.Both tablets have the same 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor found in the Lenovo LePhone smartphone.
When I got a chance to check out the Lenovo Skylight at CES in January, it was running an early build of Lenovo’s Skylight software. The UI was reasonably attractive and it was quite snappy on the Skylight hardware. But Adobe Flash video playback was a bit choppy, and the fact that there were barely any apps made the OS a lot less attractive than Android.
You can check out my hands-on video with the Lenovo Skylight after the break. For now I guess we can consider it a requiem for a dead platform.
Update: Engadget reports that Lenovo is hoping to ship Android-based products in the 4th quarter of 2010. But it’s not quite clear at the moment if that means stripping the Skylight and U1 hybrid of the Skylight OS and slapping on Android, or completely retooling the product line.
I’m guessing it would be fairly simple to throw Android on the Skylight smartbook, since the hardware is quite similar to the Compaq Airlife 100 smartbook, which runs Android.
But the U1 Hybrid could be a different beast, since it was designed as a two-part machine. Slot the tablet into the keyboard and you have a Windows 7 tablet. Remove the tablet and it would run Skylight OS — and when you docked it again, you could pick up reading web pages where you left off. It might be a bit tougher to make that work with Android, although Mozilla is clearly working on a way to sync open browser tabs among different versions of Firefox on different platforms.
Lenovo has also started referring to the U1 as a “concept,” which doesn’t bode well for the future of this device… which was supposed to be released in June.