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IBM puts on its thinking cap

The computer giant unveils its "Think" marketing strategy aimed at corporate customers. The goal: making desktop PCs easier to manage.

NEW YORK--IBM unveiled a marketing strategy Monday aimed at attracting corporate buyers by putting an emphasis on PCs that are easier and cheaper to manage.

At a presentation for analysts, customers and reporters here, the company described its "Think" campaign as recognition that PC buyers are less concerned with speed and more interested in getting the most out of their machines.

The heart of the campaign will be software designed to make IBM computers easier to use and quicker to recover from disaster. For example, the software will help restore a system after a failure, automatically configure network and Internet connections, and improve security.

In addition, IBM will rename its desktop PC line and PC-related services to incorporate the word "think." The NetVista line of desktops, for example, will be replaced next year with ThinkCenter desktops. The company also will sell ThinkVision displays, ThinkServices and ThinkAccessories, which includes hardware such as network adapters.

The campaign is derived from a practice of an IBM executive named Thomas Watson Sr., who gave out pads of paper to new employees with the word "think" printed on the pages.

The strategy unveiled Monday is designed to distinguish IBM from other PC makers such as Dell Computer and Hewlett-Packard. IBM hopes that if it can offer PCs for about the same price as its competitors, potential customers will select IBM-based features that could reduce maintenance costs.

"We call that strategy 'Think,'" said Bob Moffat, senior vice president of IBM's Personal Systems Group. At Monday's demonstration, he said, "you didn't see faster processors. What you saw was technology aimed at solving problems and giving customers the business advantage."

Most of the elements of the Think campaign will be based on software or services, which IBM calls ThinkVantage Technologies. One of the products, RapidRestore, takes snapshots of a PC's data and quickly restores the data if there is a problem.

In addition, a future version of IBM's current Access Connections application will include the capability to automatically establish a network connection, hook up to the Internet and even set up devices such as printers. Wireless Security Auditor will monitor wireless networking access points and detect those that are configured improperly.

"We're starting to save our customers money the day they buy a PC," said Fran O'Sullivan, general manager for PC products and servers in IBM's Personal Computing Division.

During the third quarter, IBM ranked third in the worldwide PC market with a 6 percent share, well behind Dell and HP, which had 16 percent and 15.5 percent, respectively, according to IDC.