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Microsoft touts new Lenovo tablet

CEO Steve Ballmer shows off one of the first new convertible ThinkPads during speech at TechEd conference. Say hello to the ThinkPad X41

Microsoft, which has an obvious stake in the future of tablet PCs, is standing firmly behind a new tablet designed by IBM and supplied by China's Lenovo Group.

The new X41 Tablet Series (X41T) is the first offering by Lenovo following its purchase of IBM's legendary PC business earlier this year. The device will be available June 14 directly through Lenovo and IBM, as well as through resellers.

Ballmer with ThinkPad

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showed off one of the first of the new convertible ThinkPads during his keynote speech to launch Microsoft's TechEd development conference in Orlando, Fla., this week.

"I've been waiting for a ThinkPad that was tablet form factor, and I know a lot of other folks have, too," Ballmer said.

Microsoft has been working with PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Gateway and Motion Computing to help seed the industry with tablet PCs in support of its Windows Tablet PC Edition operating system. A representative for Gateway told CNET that the company is currently working on its next-generation tablet PCs for the fall.

The new X41 tablet from Lenovo will run on Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. The operating system aims to improve support for digital-pen input, handwriting recognition and speech input, Microsoft said. The new operating system also comes with Windows XP Service Pack 2.

The new X41 tablet comes with a 12-inch screen that can be rotated 180 degrees and become a writable slate. The device also comes with a full-size keyboard and a battery that Lenovo claims can run up to 8.5 hours and connect to wireless networks with optional 802.11 a/b/g/ support.

The tablet also addresses the challenge of deciding whether to get a tablet PC in a convertible or slate form factor, said Microsoft and Lenovo. The companies added that the X41T is lighter and better-connected to handle both jobs.

For example, Microsoft and Lenovo said some staff members at the University of Virginia Health System are evaluating the ThinkPad X41 Tablet for possible use in more than 100 clinics in Charlottesville and throughout the state.

The computer can be purchased with either an Intel Pentium M low-volt or ultra low-volt processor; an Intel 915GM chipset; up to 1.5 GB of PC2-4200 DDR2 (double data rate) memory; and Microsoft Windows Longhorn-compatible Intel 900-series graphics media technology.

Lenovo is also offering a $219 ThinkPad X4 Dock, which cradles the tablet. The base supports three USB 2.0 ports, legacy ports and a 56W AC adapter.