New ThinkPads fully loaded

IBM's new line of ThinkPad notebook computers due next month will have DVD drives and 233-MHz MMX Pentiums. And that's just for starters.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
3 min read
IBM's (IBM) new line of ThinkPad notebook computers, due next month, will have DVD drives and 233-MHz MMX Pentiums--and that's just for starters.

The new ThinkPad 770 Series, to be unveiled in the same time frame that Intel's new "Tillamook" mobile Pentiums, will contain a bevy of new features, including 5GB hard drives, 13- and 14-inch screens, and both 200- and 233-MHz processors. These features match fast, higher-end desktop PCs--even in screen size. A 14-inch LCD screen is roughly equivalent to a 16- or 17-inch CRT monitor in viewable area.

IBM will be one of the first top-tier notebook vendors to bring out notebook with a DVD drive, a feature only now beginning to appear in desktop PCs.

The top-of-the-line 770 model will contain a 233-MHz Pentium MMX processor, a 5GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive, 32MB of memory, and a 14-inch active-matrix screen, said sources familiar with the launch. This model is expected to approach $8,000.

Next in the lineup will be a 233-MHz Pentium MMX notebook running Windows NT. This machine will not contain a DVD drive, but will sport a 4GB hard drive.

In addition, IBM will offer 200- and 233-MHz ThinkPads featuring 13.3-inch screens and smaller hard drives.

The four cutting-edge 770 ThinkPads will not be cheap. Prices will start in the $5000 range and top out at just below $8000 for the high-end DVD model. For the more price-conscious, IBM will add a non-Tillamook notebook to the 760 series at the same time.

Intel Tillamook processors, due for release on September 8, run at 200 and 233 MHz. A 266 MHz model is slated for late 1997 or early 1998. Currently, Intel's most powerful notebook processor is a Pentium MMX chip running at 166 MHz. The chips will come on "modules" which contain peripheral chips and other features often contained on PC circuit boards.

IBM will simultaneously add a 166-MHz MMX model to its ThinkPad 380 line and lower prices on current 380s, said sources. The 380 line only uses 150-MHz Pentium processors currently.

This cavalcade of notebooks, which appears more ambitious than the Tillamook rollout plans of other vendors, comes as some analysts are reporting a surge for IBM in the business notebook market.

IBM was the No. 1 notebook vendor in the computer reseller channel, which is one of the primary conduits for the business market, said Matt Sargent, an analyst at Computer Intelligence.

IBM achieved a 28.2 percent share in this channel for the first half, compared to 27.7 percent for Toshiba, and 26.7 percent for Compaq. In June, IBM actually reported a 31.6 percent share among resellers, with Compaq in second with 28.1 percent, and Toshiba trailing with 23.4. In June 1996, Toshiba held a 40 percent share here.

"Both IBM and Compaq have made a lot of ground on Toshiba," Sargent said. Nonetheless, Toshiba remains the No. 1 vendor when both the reseller and retail channels are considered. The company had a 33 percent market share. IBM came in third with a 21 percent share.

IBM, of course, will not be alone in announcing notebooks next month. Compaq will release notebooks in its Armada line, which goes to the business market, as well as a consumer Presario notebook with Tillamook processors. Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard will announce Tillamook notebooks as well.

While Tillamook chips will define a new high end for notebooks, the line will gravitate toward the middle segment of the market by the second half of 1998. By then, Intel plans to be marketing Pentium II chips for notebooks.

An IBM representative said that the company does not comment on unannounced products.