IBM readies Tablet PC version of ThinkPad

IBM has developed a tablet version of its ThinkPad portable computer.

IBM has developed a ThinkPad laptop computer with a rotating screen that can be used as a tablet computer, according to documents made available by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

With its signature black case, the ThinkPad X41 Tablet Series looks like any other model of IBM's ThinkPad computer line. However, the screen of the X41 Tablet Series can be rotated 180 degrees and pressed flat against the computer's keyboard, turning the notebook into a tablet computer, according to the documents.

In addition, the screen of the X41 Tablet Series contains a digitizer that allows the included stylus to be used as an input device when the computer is being operated in tablet mode, according to the documents.

Photos of the X41 Tablet Series included with the documents made available by the FCC showed the computer running Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. Based on its form factor and stylus, the computer most likely runs Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, which supports the use of a stylus as an input device and runs on similar machines from other PC vendors.

IBM executives could not immediately be reached for comment.

The X41 Tablet Series comes equipped with wireless networking capabilities, supporting IEEE 802.11a/b/g wireless LAN standards and Bluetooth, according to the documents. Information about the processor that the X41 Tablet Series is based on, the amount of memory it comes with, its weight and dimensions, and when it will be made available was not disclosed in the documents.

However, the pictures of the X41 Tablet Series appear to show a similar size screen to that of the currently available ThinkPad X41, which has a 12.1-inch TFT-LCD (thin film transistor liquid crystal display) screen. Priced at US$2,199, the X41 also has a 1.5GHz Pentium M processor, a 60G-byte hard drive and 512M bytes of RAM, according to IBM's Web site.

FCC approval is required for the sale of any device in the U.S. that contains a radio, including support for wireless LAN connectivity. The appearance of these documents on the FCC Web site is a general indication that the X41 Tablet Series is close to commercial availability.

The FCC submission was made by IBM Japan's Yamato Laboratory, one of the company's facilities that designs the ThinkPad line of notebook computers. That lab, along with the rest of IBM's PC division, is in the process of being acquired by China's Lenovo Group.

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