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IBM combines low-tech notes with high-tech hardware

The so-called TransNote will combine IBM's ThinkPad mini-notebook with a scribble pad that can translate and record notes written on paper to the PC.

IBM on Friday plans to unveil a new laptop that aims to appeal to technophiles and technophobes alike.

The TransNote combines

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Sneak peek at IBM's new ThinkPad
Leo Suarez, IBM ThinkPad VP of products
IBM's ThinkPad mini-notebook with a scribble pad that can translate and record notes written on paper to the PC.

IBM says that the design of the new notebook computer will be the first in a series of such devices that address some of the more basic ways people record information on the go, such as the basic practice of taking notes on paper.

The popularity of handheld devices and other portable information gadgets has changed the way we carry and store information. Yet Rick McGee, vice president of marketing for IBM's mobile brands, said research showed that people often still resort to old standbys.

"A lot of people still use pen and paper. That has not gone away. But they also use notebooks. So we thought we could match them together." McGee said.

TransNote owners will be able to enter data via a keyboard, a touch screen, or by writing with a pen on a pad of paper. When a person doodles on the paper, transceivers underneath the pad track the movement of the pen, transmitting the information via handwriting recognition technology to a text file.

The whole notebook comes wrapped in a portfolio-like cover that when folded, can allow an owner to use either the ThinkPad or the paper pad individually.

Radical notebook designs aren't a new thing for IBM, which has often ventured outside the beige box for new looks. One classic example is the company's ThinkPad 701C's butterfly keyboard design.

The TransNote's hardware configuration will include a 600MHz Pentium III chip from Intel, 10.4-inch touch screen, 64MB of RAM and a 10GB hard drive, and an Ethernet card. The device can also be fitted with an 802.11 wireless LAN card. TransNote measures about 1.3 inches thick and weighs about 5.5 pounds. Battery life is estimated to be about 2.5 hours.

Pricing on the TransNote will start "around $3,000," McGee said.

IBM will start taking orders for TransNote next month, but plans to allow potential customers to sign up on a waiting list on the product's Web page.

IBM will also offer TransNote models for both right-handed and left-handed writers.