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IBM unveils two new ThinkPad lines

Looking to boost its laptop offerings, the company revamps its notebook line with two new series that combine lightweight systems with heavyweight features.

Looking to boost its laptop offerings, IBM today revamped its ThinkPad line with two new series of notebooks that combine lightweight systems with heavyweight features such as larger screens and easy connections to other portable devices.

As previously reported by CNET, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM is simplifying its ThinkPad line with the A20 and T20 series, models that add larger screens and titanium cases while weighing in at about 5 pounds.

"We have raised the bar in mobile computing by creating a simpler experience for users and an easier platform for information technology professionals to manage," Adalio Sanchez, general manager of IBM's mobile computing division, said in a statement.

The A20 comes with screens as large as 15 inches and processors ranging from a 500-MHz Celeron to a 700-MHz Pentium III. Prices start at $1,799. The A20 is one of the first notebooks to combine a 15-inch monitor with Intel's more affordable processor.

The 1.3-inch thick T20 is aimed at those who demand speed and portability, with the option of either a 650- or 700-MHz Pentium III combined with a 13.3-inch or 14.1-inch XGA display. Prices start at $3,099. They weigh 4.6 pounds, about a pound less than the A20.

IBM is looking to rebound from slow sales in its high-end mainframe and server business, as well as revamp its PC business.

Jim Garden, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said last month that the new notebooks are part of IBM's attempt to reduce costs.

"It's part of their effort to rejuvenate their PC business," Garden said. "I see that as a background thrust that is going to be constant across multiple platforms at IBM."

In reporting its first-quarter earnings last month, IBM noted that Aptiva consumer PC sales declined 45 percent, while commercial PCs were down 30 percent. By contrast, ThinkPad sales are growing about 50 percent faster than the rest of the industry. IBM's fourth-quarter market share in the United States rose to 15.1 percent from 13.7 percent a year earlier, according to market researcher Dataquest. For 1999, IBM's share of the U.S. portable market was 15.7 percent, up from 12.5 percent a year earlier.

Notebooks are one of the more promising and profitable markets for the computer industry at the moment. Last year, the overall PC market grew 20 percent in terms of units shipped, said Paul Otellini, general manager of the Intel Architecture Group. By contrast, notebooks grew by 27 percent.

Otellini added that Intel is giving higher priority to notebook chip manufacturing over other products as it struggles to meet strong PC demand.

The T20 series is designed to be the successor to IBM's "thin-and-light" 600 ThinkPad series, offering a larger screen at about the same weight. The unit comes with 128 megabytes of RAM, a 6- or 12-GB hard drive and either a CD-ROM or DVD drive.

Aimed to replace both the 390 and 770 models, the A20 is available in a variety of configurations. The entry-level A20m has a TFT display of up to 15 inches, 64 MB of memory and up to 12 GB of hard drive space. The A20p adds an ATI Mobility 128 graphics chip, 18 GB of storage, 128 MB of RAM, 16 MB of video memory, a DVD drive and a 15-inch SXGA Plus display.

In addition to adding larger screens and faster processors, IBM has designed a number of new features. Both systems are also designed to be more rugged than prior offerings, incorporating a titanium composite material into the reinforced plastic case.

A ThinkPad button on both models connects the user to a special Access ThinkPad portal site as well as a built-in directory of information on topics such as maximizing battery life and changing PCI cards. Large corporate customers can also configure the button to connect to the company's intranet or help desk.

A new port, dubbed the UltraPort connector, allows users to hook up a digital camera or other device directly to the top of the computer. In the second half of the year, IBM plans to add wireless Bluetooth connections via the new port, formerly known as Portofino.

Bluetooth uses radio frequencies to send data wirelessly between devices. A Bluetooth-equipped notebook, for instance, does not need a wireless modem or independent wireless ISP account to send information. Rather, data from the notebook can be sent by radio waves to a cell phone, which can then transmit messages to the Web. An optional $179 card, available now, allows wireless connection to an office network using the 802.11b standard.

Also, models from both series can use the same docking stations as well as share batteries and drives that use a common UltraBay 2000 standard.'s Joe Wilcox and Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.