Lenovo announced a series of new and revamped ThinkPad laptops with more consumer-oriented features and AMD processors, ahead of this week's Consumer Electronics Show. Although Lenovo has traditionally focused on the business market, the new devices' flashier designs and sleeker form factors are an acknowledgment that the line between business and personal use has blurred for many PC owners. The new ThinkPad X100e also suggests a possible direction for the netbook and ultra-portable market, which has been a boon for PC sales but detrimental to manufacturers' margins.
Ahead of this week's Consumer Electronics Show, Lenovo announced a refreshed
series of ThinkPad laptops with features designed to appeal more broadly to the
consumer market. In addition to the new ultrathin ThinkPad X100e and the AMD-processor-powered
ThinkPad Edge, the company's classic ThinkPad line has been expanded by four
While the ThinkPad line's traditional target has been the enterprise and
small-to-midsize business (SMB) audience, Lenovo spokespeople told eWEEK ahead
of CES that the new laptops are designed to capitalize on the blurring of the
traditional lines between business and consumer devices. According to the
company's publicly stated thinking, more and more users are taking their
laptops from a strictly business context and using them for personal
applications; consequently, the new designs include not only hardware capable
of running business processes, but also aesthetic features intended to put a
Lenovo laptop in the same context as more consumer-oriented products from other
The SMB market is perhaps where this business-consumer line is blurred most
for users, and the ThinkPad Edge series, which includes 13-, 14- and 15-inch
models, is designed to capitalize on this. The first ThinkPad laptop with an AMD
dual-core processor option, devices in the Edge line also feature a redesigned
keyboard with enlarged keys and one-push access to multimedia functions.
Mainframe-oriented keys such as System Request have also been removed, allowing
the overall keyboard to be slimmer despite the expansion in individual key
Besides glossy and matte black, ThinkPad Edge laptops will be offered in
"heatwave red." Lenovo rates the devices' battery life at 8 hours. The 13-inch
ThinkPad Edge retails for $549 and is available now; the 14- and 15-inch
versions will be available in the second quarter of 2010.
Lenovo also announced the ThinkPad X100e, a device it terms "the
company's first professional-grade ultraportable laptop." Powered by
either the AMD Athlon Neo single- and
dual-core processors, or else a Turion dual-core processor, the ThinkPad X100e
starts at less than three pounds in weight and comes with an 11.6-inch
high-definition display. Connectivity comes courtesy of 802.11n Wi-Fi, as well
as optional Bluetooth and 3G. Prices start at below $500.
The manufacturer is also introducing four new models to its original
ThinkPad line, including the T410s, T410, T510 and W510. These devices will
offer Intel dual-core processors, Lenovo's redesigned keyboard and expanded
touchpad, and up to 22 hours of battery life in some cases.
Lenovo's new devices and revamped ThinkPad line could serve as a forward
indicator of sorts for the types of devices that will make their debut early in
2010. Indeed, the new year sees many PC manufacturers in something of a
quandary: Although the popularity of netbooks represented the one bright spot
in an otherwise moribund PC sales environment in 2009, those devices' cheap
prices and lower margins could goad the industry in 2010 to offer new products
with netbooks' ultraportability and connectivity at a somewhat higher price
The ThinkPad X100e seems to be a step in this particular direction, with a
larger screen and more powerful processor than many standard-issue netbooks.
More robust ultraportables could also help software creators. In
comments at Microsoft's annual Financial Analyst Meeting on July 30,
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer indicated that
the software giant would work with PC manufacturers to produce new "ultrathin"
PCs that would provide lightweight computing and a higher cost. Ultrathins with
more powerful processors would presumably be capable of running versions of
Windows 7 that offer Microsoft higher margins. "We want people to be able to get the advantages
of lightweight performance and be able to spend more money with us" in
addition to various manufacturers, Ballmer told the assembled analysts at the
time. Presumably, other software makers-not just Microsoft-would benefit from
an ecosystem of powerful ultraportables.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.