Lenovo ThinkPad carves into tablet market

Lenovo is already making its mark on the ThinkPad brand by rolling out the former IBM unit's first tablet PC, which is expected to carve a niche in the stone cold tablet market.

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Lenovo Group Ltd. touts its debut ThinkPad tablet as leaner and meaner than the competition while one analyst said it's also about to make rival vendors greener -- with envy.

The Chinese vendor today announced its first ThinkPad release, the X41 Tablet, making its first mark on the line that is widely credited for setting the standard for notebook computers more than a decade ago.

Jeff Samitt, X Series segment manager for Lenovo, said the X41 offers a new "trifecta" in tablet innovation: lighter weight, writable slate and a full-sized keyboard.

He said the X41 is 20% lighter than the average tablet as it weighs 3.5 lbs., measures 1.14-inch thick, offers an enhanced security infrastructure and provides the longest standard battery life of any 12-inch convertible tablet.

In addition, the X41, which can function as a traditional notebook or a tablet, comes equipped with an integrated fingerprint reader for additional security, the latest ThinkVantage technologies for improved wireless connections and the ThinkPad X4 Dock station that provides additional expansion and cable management flexibility.

Available on June 14, the product will retail for $1,899.

In December 2004, Lenovo announced plans to acquire IBM's PC division. The $1.25 billion sale allows the PC maker to use IBM's branding for five years, including the ThinkPad brand. When the deal was finalized last month, Big Blue promised to provide Lenovo with marketing support and help from its corporate salesforce.

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According to Roger Kay, vice president of client computing at Framingham, Mass.-based research firm IDC, Lenovo will not struggle to fuel interest in its tablet, as Microsoft and other vendors have.

"Previously introduced products haven't excited buyers to really open up the category," Kay said. "I can tell you that the X41 is an excellent example of a tablet, so if anything's going to stimulate the category, this is it."

Kay said the X41 isn't offering any earth-shattering features, it's simply well designed. He added, "It feels right, it looks right, it's the right size."

Another thing Lenovo did right, according to Kay, is its combined efforts with IBM. He said customers shouldn't expect the notorious conundrums commonly associated with joint ventures because the companies have worked to ensure a familiar and consistent product road map.

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