NEW YORK—Lenovo is launching its first ever workstations and a new brand name—ThinkStation—which marks the first update to the well-known Think lineup since the company bought IBM's Personal Computing Division in 2004.
At an event here Nov. 6, Lenovo executives unveiled the single-socket ThinkStation S10 and the dual-socket ThinkStation D10, which will each hit the market in January. The PC vendor also announced that the workstations will use Intel's Penryn family of 45-nanometer processors that are scheduled to launch Nov. 12.
The ThinkStations mark the first time Lenovo has launched a new Think PC since buying IBM's computer division for $1.75 billion. When Lenovo completed that deal, it inherited both the ThinkPad line of laptops and the ThinkCentre desktop line, but IBM continued to design its own line of workstations.
Tom Tobul, executive director of Lenovo's Emerging Products Business Unit, said the company wanted to show that it could provide customers with all the systems they need, and had to add a workstation model to its PC lineup to meet all the demands of an IT department.
"We want to be multifaceted," Tobul told eWEEK. "We already have the ThinkPad line and we have the ThinkCentre desktops, but we want to be a one-stop shop for IT departments and our customers have been calling and asking us for this type of workstation. It's a logical extension of our portfolio."
The customers include those working with digital content creation applications, digital video editing, and computer-aided design, as well as workers in the oil and gas industry who need a robust PC to handle both graphics and scientific applications. Lenovo may bring out a model specifically designed for the financial sector later.
Steve Hellmuth, executive vice president of operations and technology with NBA Entertainment, said his organization is testing the ThinkStations and could place orders by next year. He said the NBA needs more robust machines to handle the increased demands of its fans for video content and is looking to revamp its digital media management abilities.
"The editing and packaging of the video from our games is key to us," said Hellmuth, adding that there is a need for these types of enterprise-class workstations.
Lenovo remains the world's third largest PC vendor and its second financial quarter results, including a $105.7 million net profit, showed the company has benefited from its sales of the Think line to enterprise and midmarket customers. However, the company is facing pressure from Acer, which recently bought Gateway and could move into third place in terms of worldwide PC sales next year.
One way Lenovo is trying to counter that is with advertising and corporate sponsorships, including relationships with the NBA and the 2008 Summer Olympics. At the Nov. 6 event, Lenovo brought NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton to the unveiling to extol the virtues of the new ThinkStations.
Leslie Fiering, an analyst with Gartner, said Lenovo was getting into the workstation business for several reasons, including expanding its product line, capturing certain types of enterprise customers by taking advantage of the Think brand name and positioning itself to take the most advantage of Intel's new processor and chip set offerings.
"With workstations, companies like Lenovo get a chance to put the latest and greatest components into a high-end device and the payback for these vendors are PCs with high margins," said Fiering.
The ThinkStation announcement also marks one of the first public commitments by an OEM to use Intel's new Penryn processors. According to Lenovo, the two workstations will support a wide range of dual- and quad-core Penryn models, including Core 2 Duo, Xeon and Core 2 Extreme processors. The new quad-core Xeon E5400 processors, for example, have clock speeds ranging from 2.0GHz to 2.83GHz, while the dual-core Xeon E5200 modes top out at 3.33GHz.
There are no plans to offer Advanced Micro Devices processors with the ThinkStation line, said Tobul.
The ThinkStation S10 will use Intel's X38 Express chip set and offers up to 8GB of DDR3 (double data rate 3) RAM, a choice of either SATA (Serial ATA) hard disk drives that offer a maximum capacity of 750GB or SAS (serial-attached SCSI) drives with up to 300GB of capacity. Lenovo is also offering a choice of Nvidia graphics cards, including the Quadro FX4600.
In addition to offering a dual-socket configuration, the DC10 supports Intel's 5400A chip set, up to 64GB of DDR2 RAM and the same choice of SAT and SAS hard disk drives and Nvidia graphics cards. Both workstation also offer two, second-generation PCI Express x16 slots and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports. The basic S10 model starts at $1,199 and the DC10 starts at $1,739.
For the operating system, Tobul said customers were interested in both Linux and Microsoft Windows XP. The two workstations support 64-bit Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS as well as Windows XP and Vista.