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ThinkPads lead IBM small-business push

New notebooks hold the line on prices but pair faster Pentium 4-M processors with features including wireless networking and a built-in file encryption and security system.

IBM is aiming to make its PCs more attractive to small businesses.

The company's Personal Computing Division on Tuesday launched a cadre of ThinkPad notebooks and Netvista desktops.

IBM's latest ThinkPads hold the line on prices but pair faster Intel Pentium 4-M processors with such features as a built-in file encryption and security system, and wireless networking, among other things.

For Big Blue, it's another sign of a plan to aggressively target small and medium-sized businesses.

"A lot of the mobile needs of small business or education run parallel to those of large corporations," said Rob Herman, IBM's product marketing manager for ThinkPad. "What we're trying to do here is bring all of those features into a more affordable system for those customers."

The new ThinkPad R32 family offers the Pentium 4-M processor, starting at 1.6GHz. The basic ThinkPad R32 includes the 1.6GHz chip, a 14.1-inch display, 256MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive. It sells for $1,649.

A similar model with DVD-ROM and wireless networking will sell for $1,899, while a third model offers that configuration plus IBM's new Embedded Security Subsystem 2.0, which uses a chip and software to protect passwords and encrypt files. It costs $1,974.

At the same time, IBM introduced a new bare-bones ThinkPad R31, which includes Intel's 1.13GHz Celeron processor and starts at $1,299. It also updated the processors available on its ThinkPad A31 and A31P models to include Intel's newer 1.5GHz, 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz Pentium 4 chips.

IBM on Tuesday debuted new desktops, the Netvista A30 and A30P, which are based on Intel's new 845G chipset and start at $799 and $889, respectively.