IBM debuts light laptop

IBM on Tuesday announced what company officials said is its lightest portable notebook that features the company's built-in fingerprint reader, along with new software that carries out a complete hardware check to ensure the system is working at peak performance.

The new software bundled with the ThinkPad X41, which weighs in at 2.7 pounds, does a check of the machine's system software and compares that to a list of available updates. Users can obtain the most recent versions of files such as drivers, BIOS updates, and system utilities. The software also offers users the chance to get the latest in system upgrades, company officials said.

As with other IBM mobile systems, X41 users can download the latest version of the company's Rescue and Recovery technology, which includes an embedded, preboot emergency system that provides one-button access to tools that can recover information from a software failure.

One user who has used IBM laptops with fingerprint readers is Havertys Furniture, an Atlanta-based company with more than 115 showrooms in 16 states. Company officials said the technology has made a measurable improvement on productivity and lowered system downtime among remote employees.

"We have employees who work both in the office and on-the-go and ThinkPads with integrated fingerprint readers enable them to quickly access files without having to key in passwords. This helps ensure that our intellectual capital and company information are protected on the PC," said Pat Zurica, Director of Technical Services at Havertys.

The new ThinkPad X41 is fueled by Intel's Pentium M Processor as well as that company's 915GM chipset. The portable system has a 400MHz front-side bus, and Intel's Graphics Media Accelerator 900. The system also comes with the ThinkPad Power Manager, which gives users control over the thermal management of the system by allowing them to control the speed of the chip and speed of the fan that cools the chip.

Confident the systems will appeal to SMBs, IBM announced it would make versions of the new system available through its Express program, which could help lower costs associated with password management and resets. With the built-in fingerprint reader, IT administrators gain an extra layer of security to mobile systems and have fewer concerns about passwords being stolen, company officials said.

In a related announcement, IBM also rolled out several options for the X41, including the X4 UltraBase Dock, providing users with added expansion. With the UltraBase Dock, which brings the combined weight to 4 pounds, users can employ devices such as additional batteries, a CD or DVD optical drive, and a number of storage products to increase capacity.

The ThinkPad X41 will be available starting April 12, with prices starting at US$1,999.

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