Complaints prompt Lenovo to update ThinkPad BIOS

Under the heading of laptop computer problems, there are minor issues and major issues. Laptop support engineer Kim Kramaric has identified a third category: annoying issues.

Kramaric, a support engineer at 2KDesign in Copenhagen, said last week that he has been trying to fix a problem affecting 50 Lenovo (formerly IBM ) ThinkPad T43 laptops for nearly five months.

Kramaric needs to provide two hard disk drives for each of his company's T43 laptops. Last June, while attempting to add the second drives, which are from Hitachi, he made a discovery. After booting the machines with the extra drives, a "POST 2010" message would appear, preventing further steps unless the user pressed the Escape key. Nothing major, just annoying.

"That wasn't very satisfactory for a premium computer," Kramaric said, referring to the T43, which starts at US$1,300. Not Major, but Widespread

It turns out that hundreds of T43 users worldwide had noticed the same problem when using drives that Lenovo Group didn't support, according to user forums. Since the problem was first noticed in May, about 100 users have posted comments about the problem at the Independent ThinkPad Open Forum site.

Last week, Lenovo posted a BIOS update that lets the T43 start up without requiring users to press the Escape key when the POST 2010 warning message appears. Users who tried out the BIOS posted messages at a user forum last week saying that the fix requires a user to wait 10 seconds and listen for a beep before proceeding. Nonetheless, Kramaric said he's eager to try out the fix, since the Hitachi drives cost less than half the price of Lenovo drives.

But the experience left Kramaric questioning Lenovo's commitment to support. "On a scale of 1 to 10, their score hits rock bottom at 1," he said.

A Lenovo spokesman and industry analysts said the problem is fairly minor and argued that the company's sales since the May acquisition of IBM's PC unit show that users seem to like Lenovo products.

"People are upset about [the POST 2010 error]," a Lenovo spokesman said. "But it's not a hugely overarching issue."

Richard Shim, an analyst at IDC, agreed that this "smaller-scale" problem gained prominence because it affects a mainstream laptop that has probably been sold to hundreds of thousands of users. "It doesn't sound like [the problem] would have a material impact on Lenovo revenues," he said. In fact, Lenovo has nearly reached the market share IBM had before it sold the vendor its PC division. Lenovo had 7.7 percent of global laptop and PC sales in the third quarter of 2005, and IBM's PC division had about 8 percent of the market in the third quarter of 2004, Shim said.

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