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Lenovo reveals rollable laptop and smartphone screens

Can't say when they’ll roll out for sale or why you want kit with more moving parts

Lenovo has staged its annual Tech World gabfest and teased devices with rollable OLED screens that shrink or expand as applications demand.

The company emitted the video below to show off its rollables. We've embedded and set the vid to start at the moment the rollable phone is demoed. The rollable laptop demo starts at the 53 second mark.

Youtube Video

Lenovo has offered no explanation of how the rollables work, and the video above does not show the rear of the prototype rollable smartphone and laptop.

That matters, because there's no way of telling whether Lenovo is hiding a horrible mess back there, or is close to having a viable product. Note, also, that electronics manufacturers are usually keen to avoid using moving parts because they break. The devices on display in the vids move – a lot. More than the foldable screens that have appeared in recent years and attracted criticism for requiring bulky hinges and gathering dust and grime on creases.

Luca Rossi, president of Lenovo's Intelligent Devices Group, said content will scale as screens expand and contract, and opined this will be very useful indeed for … stuff. But his remarks suggested rollables are as much about giving Lenovo a differentiated product to sell as they are about improving productivity. He cited Lenovo's past form factor footling – with products like convertible laptops with 360-degree hinges and foldable PCs – as the kind of cleverness that propelled the Chinese company to the top of the PC sales charts.

Just don't mention that foldable kit probably didn't help Lenovo get there – analysts rate foldable smartphones as years away from the mainstream.

While you wait for rollable devices, Lenovo last month offered another way to extend screens: an app called Freestyle that allows PCs to use Lenovo tablets as a second screen, or for touch input.

Apple and Samsung already offer that functionality and – at respective 31 and 18 percent shares of the market – dwarf Lenovo’s 8.7 slice of the pie. Making its tablets more capable may help Lenovo to catch up a little, or perhaps offer some bundling opportunities.

The event featured a few other re-hashes, such as Lenovo's recently refreshed range of datacenter kit and ambition to offer diverse VR devices such as the face-mounted monitor revealed last month.

One fresh initiative the company revealed is that it and VMware have signed a memorandum of understanding to build a lab focussed on enabling hyperconverged infrastructure to run at the network edge, and to create "edge native" applications and infrastructure modernisation. That's industry jargon for making it possible to use converged servers and storage in places like 5G cells, preferably to run apps based on Kubernetes, with everything software-defined rather than reliant on older and less flexible tightly coupled architectures. ®

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