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IBM readies new, improved ThinkPads

IBM is set to expand its portable PC franchise with a crop of new notebooks that include the 133-MHz ThinkPad 760 based on the PCI bus, a refresh of its 365 ThinkPad line, and an ultra-thin notebook dubbed the "Ultra-Portable."

IBM is set to expand its portable PC franchise with a crop of new notebooks that include the 133-MHz ThinkPad 760 based on the PCI bus, a refresh of its 365 ThinkPad line, and an ultrathin notebook dubbed the "Ultra-Portable," sources familiar with the company's plan told CNET.

Deploying, and even inventing, new notebook technology has not been a problem with Big Blue. What has tripped IBM many times in the past has been its inability to understand the time-to-market concept. But of late, IBM has proven adept at turning on a dime and even at pushing the notebook-technology envelope.

At the end of April, IBM will ship an internally redesigned ThinkPad 760 using the new Intel 133-MHz Pentium processor for notebook PCs, said sources familiar with IBM's plans. The 760 is IBM's top-of-the-line ThinkPad. Intel is slated to announce this new Mobile Pentium processor on Monday.

The new internal design for the 760 will be based on the PCI bus, the first IBM ThinkPad to use this high-performance data bus. The PCI bus has become the de facto standard for desktop PCs and for many server PCs. The 760 will come with a 12.1-inch active-matrix liquid crystal display (LCD)--roughly equivalent in viewable area to a 14-inch desktop CRT display--a 1.2GB hard disk drive, support for MPEG 2 video playback, and an IBM "Mwave" media processor subsystem that provides a 28.8-kbps fax-modem, answering machine capabilities, and 16-bit sound.

With the introduction of this new 760, IBM is also expected to cut prices on its current 90-MHz and 120-MHz 760 models, said the sources. Pricing for the 133-MHz 760, including a built-in 4X CD-ROM drive, should come in at about $6,800, the sources added. This will bump the 120-MHz 760 down "a couple of hundred dollars" added the sources.

IBM is currently planning to release an "intent to support" statement when Intel announces the 133-MHz Mobile Pentium on Monday but has not yet decided whether it will actually announce the new 760 next week, said the sources.

"[IBM] isn't going to ship until the end of April or early May," said one source, hinting that a later announcement is possible.

IBM is also slated to refresh its low-end ThinkPad 365 line with new models that pack a Pentium processor. Currently, all 365 models use a 75-MHz 486DX4 processor.

IBM is also preparing a completely new notebook line for midyear that boasts an ultrathin, ultralight design but is wider than the highly compact subnotebook designs. Though weighing as little as 4 pounds, the wide-body design will accommodate a large keyboard and large LCD displays--possibly as large as 13 inches across diagonally--and use processors such as Intel's 100-MHz Mobile Pentium, the sources said.