Lenovo launches new ThinkPads

In one of its first significant product announcements since it acquired IBM's former PC division, Lenovo is introducing a new series of notebooks. Kalpana Ettenson reports

Lenovo has announced a new line of ThinkPad notebooks, the Z60 series. While previous ThinkPad models, such as notebooks in the X and T lines, have been more corporate-minded, the Z60 series ThinkPads are decidedly consumer-focused.

Two Z60 models will be available — the Z60t and the Z60m. Both models will have wide screens, though of different sizes: The Z60t will have a 35cm WXGA wide screen and the Z60m a 39cm WXGA wide screen. Wide screens are new for Lenovo — all other ThinkPad models have standard-aspect screens.

The Z60 models also incorporate other consumer-oriented features that Lenovo does not offer on other ThinkPads, such as FireWire ports and three-in-one media card readers. While both Z60 models retain the distinctive ThinkPad look and feel, with the signature black case and red eraserhead pointing device (along with a touchpad), extra touches make the new models subtly different.

Both Z60 models have a less-squarish look, with more rounded edges, and both also have white icons ringing the keyboard to identify ports and connectors along the sides. The new ThinkPads will also come with optional titanium covers that can be attached to the lid to lend them a modern look.

Another first will be the option to configure either Z60 model with a wireless wide area network antenna, or WWAN. The antenna, which will be embedded in the bezel along the right side of the screen, will enable users set up wireless accounts to log on to the internet using WWAN instead of just relying on the integrated wi-fi.

Both Z60 models will be fairly configurable, with options to select Intel Celeron or Pentium M processors, and Microsoft Windows XP Home or Windows XP Pro operating systems. While the Z60t will rely on integrated Intel 900GMA graphics, the Z60m will offer the option of including an ATI M-22 or M-24 graphics chip. Both will have up to 100GB hard drives, though smaller-capacity drives are available. Both also include either rewritable DVD drives or DVD-ROM/CD-RW drives.

The two models will also be able to connect to an optional Advanced Mini Dock docking station. The new docking station offers a unique left corner alignment mechanism that allows the notebook to align and connect easily. Extra connections on the docking station include a DVI port, as well as PS/2, parallel, and serial ports.

With its slightly smaller screen and a standard 4-cell battery, the Z60t, at 2kg, weighs the lesser of the two. The Z60m tips the scales at 3kg, including a standard 6-cell battery.

Lenovo will start selling the Z60t on its Web site beginning September 20. The Z60m laptop will be available on October 11.

In a recent briefing, Lenovo said it plans to increase its business outside China by targeting small to mid-size businesses in mature markets like the US and Western Europe, while going after consumer and corporate customers in emerging markets.

Lenovo has enjoyed much success in China, where it not only sells PCs and notebooks, but also servers and printers, in addition to operating a separate cellphone business. Outside China, the company has traditionally had very few sales, until it finalised its purchase of IBM's PC business in May.

Under an agreement with IBM, Lenovo has to keep the IBM logo on its ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCenter PCs for five years. However, after 18 months, Lenovo can start changing the size of the Big Blue logo, shrinking it while increasing the size of the Lenovo logo, says Deepak Advani, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Lenovo.

-- China Martens of IDG News Service contributed to this report

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