IBM on Tuesday refreshed its ThinkPad portable and NetVista desktop computer lines with new models and accessories.
The changes, while on the surface subtle, are part of a major strategy shift. IBM recently moved its Intel-based server operation from the PC group to the server division, in move intended to boost profits. The move separates IBM's PC operation from one of its most profitable product lines, say analysts.
The remaining PC operation is streamlining the overall number of products available, while putting more emphasis on adding new features and expanding options, such as monitors.
"They have several form factors that they introduced, but based on customer response they are streamlining on those offerings and putting more focus on the user," said Technology Business Research analyst Bob Sutherland.
The Armonk, N.Y.-based company introduced one new notebook model, the ThinkPad A21e, with the "e" standing for "essential." IBM as offers A21 "m" and "p" models, as part of a three-tier marketing approach: value, performance or multimedia systems.
The entry-level ThinkPad A21e comes with a 650MHz Celeron processor, 12.1-inch Super VGA display, 64MB of RAM, 20GB hard drive, 24X CD-ROM drive, modem and Windows 98 for $1,499. The high-end model, which sells for $1,899, packs a 700MHz Celeron processor, 15-inch XGA display, 64MB of RAM, 20GB hard drive, 24X CD-ROM drive, modem and Windows 98.
IBM also beefed up the number of ThinkPad i Series models with integrated connectivity features, such as wireless networking, LAN and 56kbps modem. Two of the consumer notebooks feature one of the hottest new technologies, integrated 802.11B wireless for connecting to a home or corporate network without cables. IBM first introduced the feature in September.
The entry-level model, the ThinkPad i Series 1300, comes with a 650MHz Celeron processor, 12.1-inch TFT display, 64MB of RAM, 10GB hard drive, 24X CD-ROM drive, modem, 802.11B wireless and Windows Me for $1,449.
The entry-level NetVista A20 comes a with 700MHz Celeron processor, 64MB of RAM, 10GB hard drive, 48X CD-ROM drive, network card and Windows Me for $765. The midrange model, selling for $1,190, packs a 1GHz Pentium III processor, 128MB of RAM, 10GB hard drive, 48X CD-ROM drive, network card and Windows 2000. Neither price includes a monitor.
Unlike most other computer makers, which offer distinct consumer and commercial PC lines, IBM uses the same basic NetVista model for both markets. Major differences, such as styling and hardware extras, are subtle. But the approach means substantially less production cost for IBM than building completely different consumer and commercial PCs, Sutherland said.
"Expect to see IBM trim to number of models it offers, with some disappearing, as they continue to fine tune," he said.
NetVista A20 models are geared more for business and A20i PCs for consumers.
With the refresh, the entry-level A20i comes with a 700MHz Celeron processor, 64MB of RAM, 20GB hard drive and 48X CD-ROM drive for $688. The $937 midlevel system offers similar features, but with an 866MHz Pentium III processor and CD-RW drive.
IBM also introduced new desktop and notebook options, such as an 8X write/4X rewrite/ 24X read CD-RW drive for portables and flat-panel speakers for both NetVista and ThinkPad systems. The company also repositioned some of its monitors: the 15-inch E51 CRT monitor, selling for $159,and the 17-inch E74, available for $249.