Lenovo to launch ThinkPad Tablet PC

Lenovo Group has introduced the Tablet PC concept into its ThinkPad product family with a lightweight convertible tablet computer, the company is expected to announce Monday.

Qualification documents posted on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's Web site in April spoiled Lenovo's surprise, but the company planned to officially announce the ThinkPad X41 Tablet on the first day of Microsoft's Tech Ed conference in Orlando. As previously reported, the X41 is based on a convertible Tablet PC design, meaning it can be used as a regular notebook computer or as a tablet device.

The X41's 12.1-inch screen swivels to cover the keyboard when a convertible Tablet PC is used in tablet mode. This design has proved more popular than the slate Tablet PC design, which does not use a built-in keyboard.

Lenovo has seen increasing demand for Tablet PCs among its Thinkpad customers in certain markets, such as health care workers, said Rob Herman, program director for Thinkpad marketing. Some of those customers were considering Tablet PCs sold by other vendors, and Lenovo decided the time was right to release a Tablet PC, he said.

Tablet PCs, though once lauded by Microsoft as the future of mobile computing, represent a small fraction of the PC market. Some users love the ability to enter information using a digital pen, but the mass market has not been able to justify the extra expense of a Tablet PC.

The US$1,899 starting price for the X41 is higher than the price of most notebooks but is around what other PC vendors charge for ultraportable notebooks. The ultraportable class of notebooks includes systems that weigh about 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg), the same weight as the X41. Lenovo thinks that some customers who have already deployed ultraportable notebooks might be willing to switch over to Tablet PCs in the future once they realize they can get the ability to enter information with a pen for the same price as their current notebooks, Herman said.

The X41 uses Intel's Centrino technology, with low-voltage Pentium M processors and Intel's wireless chips. The base configuration includes the Ultra Low Voltage Pentium M 758 processor, 256M bytes of DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory, a 20G-byte hard drive, and an integrated fingerprint reader. A US$219 docking station is required to use CDs or DVDs.

Users can get their hands on the X41 starting on June 14 through resellers worldwide, Lenovo said. It will also be available on Lenovo's site as well as IBM's Web site. Lenovo completed its acquisition of IBM's PC business in May.

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