IBM releases desktop-priced ThinkPads

Priced at under US$1,000, a new version of the ThinkPad notebook computer is targeted at users who are interested in switching from desktop PCs to laptop computers, but don't have much need for mobility, according to IBM.

Screen sizes up to 15 inches and a wedge-shaped design with a larger, more ergonomic keyboard are just two of the features that are supposed to ease the transition to the notebook platform for IBM customers used to working on desktop machines, according to Chris Mantin, worldwide segment marketing manager for ThinkPad at IBM.

Also like desktop machines, the new G40s use Intel Pentium or Celeron brand desktop processors and come outfitted with four USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports for connecting peripheral devices.

Many competing notebooks in the so-called "desktop replacement" market have only one or two USB ports, according to Mantin.

Unlike Dell Computer, IBM also decided to stick with a so-called "three spindle" design that includes a floppy disk drive in addition to a hard disk and optical (CD/DVD) drive, Mantin said.

He cited the continued use of the 1.44 M-byte floppy disk among the G40's target customers in small and medium-sized businesses, education and government as the reason behind the decision to include the extra drive.

The key for IBM is to provide a smooth transition from the desktop to the notebook platform with a "desktop replacement" that doesn't deprive customers of functionality they are used to in the name of portability, according to Mantin.

Such customers either prefer larger screens and keyboards and need only "occasional mobility," or are not ready to make the radical switch from desktops to "ultralight" notebooks, finding comfort in the similar features and specifications between desktop computers and desktop replacement notebooks.

Accordingly, the G40 is heavier than other ThinkPad models, weighing in at between seven and 7.9 pounds and has a more limited battery life than other notebooks. Lower-end models come with a six cell Lithium Ion battery that allows the G40 to run for approximately two hours. Higher end models come with a 12 cell battery that provides up to three and a half hours of life.

Despite the focus on creating a desktop-like notebook, IBM is offering a number of features aimed at portable users, including dual-band 802.11a and 802.11b wireless support with selected G40 models.

In addition to an antenna built in to the G40's display and a mini PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) wireless card integrated onto the motherboard, wireless-enabled G40 models are preloaded with the IBM Access Connections Version 2.6 software, which enables mobile users to detect and switch between available wireless connections based on their priority and speed, according to Mantin.

The G40s are available immediately from IBM and start at $949 for a model with an Intel Celeron 2.0GHz processor.

At the high end, a G40 equipped with a 3.0GHz Intel Pentium processor, 15 inch display, 802.11 wireless support and a combined DVD/CD-rewriteable drive costs $2,069, Mantin said.