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IBM rethinks notebook line

IBM revamps its ThinkPad notebook PC line, including new models in its 760 and 365 lines, price cuts on existing 760s, and bundling of Windows NT on certain models.

IBM (IBM) announced a major revamp of its ThinkPad notebook PC line today, including new models in its 760 and 365 lines, price cuts on existing 760s, bundling of Windows NT on certain models, and enhanced support for NT.

The flagship 760 ThinkPad line will, for the first time, get a 150-MHz Mobile Pentium processor, a 6X CD-ROM drive, and a 2.1GB hard drive. To date, 760s were limited to 133-MHz processors, 4X CD-ROM drives, and hard drives under 1.5GB.

IBM has also upgraded the 12.1-inch screen on the 760E to support resolutions as high as 1,024 by 768 pixels for the first time. Previous 12.1-inch screens were limited to an 800-by-600 resolution. IBM plans to add a 13.3-inch screen in the spring of next year.

ThinkPad 760s range in price from $3,200 to about $6,500. A new SelectaDock II docking station is also available for both 760s and older 755 models, IBM said. The SelectaDock starts at $599.

At the entry level, the 365 ThinkPad line will now be available with an 11.3-inch active-matrix screen. Previously, 365 models were limited to 10.4-inch screens. The 365 line will also get a 6X CD-ROM drive and a 1.35GB hard drive for the first time.

All these new systems are ready to go, said Steve Ward, general manager of Mobile Computing at the IBM PC Company. "We've built and shipped 30,000 before we even announced," he said.

IBM also announced new pricing for existing models. The 760ED with a 133-MHz Pentium processor, 1.2GB hard drive, 16MB of RAM, and a 12.1-inch active-matrix display will plummet in price from $6,999 to $5,399.

IBM will also begin bundling Windows NT on certain ThinkPad models and offer support for notebook PC features not natively supported in NT. Support is increasingly becoming an issue for corporate users who want to put NT on their notebooks.

IBM will add support--in the form of new drivers--for features in NT such as the "resume" (sleep mode) function, PCMCIA, MPEG, and Infrared. For current ThinkPad 755 and 760 owners needing to upgrade drivers for NT, drivers will be available on IBM's ThinkPad Internet site.

Although IBM expects NT drivers to be available in November, certain drivers will not be ready until later. Power management, plug-and-play PCMCIA, and hot-plug PCMCIA will not be ready until the end of the year, IBM said.

NT Driver downloads on the Internet will be important for the majority of customers who are do-it-yourselfers, IBM said. "I don't think we'll sell a lot of NT bundles. Most customers like to load NT themselves," Ward said.