Lenovo Celebrates 60 Millionth ThinkPad With Optimus Graphics

Celebrating the sales of 60 million ThinkPads over the past 18 years, Lenovo on Wednesday announced immediate plans to add Nvidia's Optimus graphics to T Series models, and talked long-time intentions for innovations in areas such as location awareness and VoIP. I was briefed on the news by Dilip Bhatia, Lenovo's VP of ThinkPad marketing.

Starting today, Lenovo will outfit three models of T Series laptops with Optimus, a technology aimed at automatically switching between a built-in discrete graphics chipset - for games and other apps that demand high performance graphics - and an integrated graphics chipset, for faster PC performance and longer battery life.

While technologies generally tend to trickle down from the high-end, the new availability of Optimus seems to represent the reverse. Lenovo has already been offering Optimus on its consumer-oriented IdeaPad laptops.

"But business users need Optimus, too," Bhatia told me, adding that as far as he knows, Lenovo's T Series are the first enterprise-class laptops to be outfitted with Optimus.

Lenovo had previously announced Optimus as a feature for its T 410s model. Optimus will be now offered as an option on new purchases across the ThinkPad T Series, at notebook pricing that will start at $1,200 for the T410 and $1,849 for the T500 model.

Lenovo's T series models are available to both enterprise customers and SMBs, although Lenovo's newer Edge series is directly targeted at smaller businesses.

IBM initially launched ThinkPad back in 1992, before selling its personal computer division to Chinese PC giant Lenovo in 2005. Bhatia ticked off a long list of "industry first" for ThinkPad in both its IBM- and Lenovo-owned days. ThinkPads were the first laptops to be equipped with spill-resistant keyboards, and the first to come with built-in wireless, finger-print readers, and CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives, for instance.

In IDC's latest numbers on the global notebook market, Lenovo ranked fourth behind HP, Acer and Dell in numbers of units shipped worldwide for the second quarter of 2010. However, Lenovo and seventh-ranked Apple turned out to be the only two vendors shipping more laptops than for the same quarter the year before. Lenovo's numbers rose by 18.6 percent, and Apple's by 37.6 percent.

Future ThinkPads: "personal assistants"

"To continue to get more market share worldwide, we'll keep innovating. But we don't want to innovate just for innovation's sake. We want to innovate with things that customers really need," Bhatia told me.

Essentially, Lenovo's long-term strategy calls for turning ThinkPads into "personal assistants," as opposed to just personal computers, Bhatia said..

"We're looking at technologies where the PCs knows where you are. You won't have to tell it where you are. It will adjust automatically," he told me.

"We also want to have the best battery life, and to run cooler and more reliably. Customers are very interested in voice over IP, and we're working on technologies to make VoIP more user-friendly. You can expect to see announcements in areas like these in the future, so stay tuned," according to Bhatia.

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