In its bid for increased profit from the mobile computing market, IBM has unleashed a new range of its ThinkPad notebooks. There are three models: one aimed at cost-conscious buyers (the 365), one offering "maximum mobility" (the 560), and one for power users (the 760).
Michael Nash, Asia Pacific ThinkPad manager, says although IBM is proud of the expanded functionality of the 760, it is at the lower end of the range that the company expects the most commercial action.
"The 365 is where the market is," Nash said. "We may tend to focus on the higher-end models, but price is the primary motivator for the majority of our customers."
However, it remains to be seen whether or not the 365 - still fairly pricey at $4,080 - is cheap enough for the cost-conscious buyers IBM seeks.
Sharija Sujanto, a notebook sales manager with Harvey Norman, says many consumers have grown accustomed to notebooks with sales tags starting in the mid- to high-$2,000s. "A line of notebooks that starts at around $4,000 will face some stiff competition from the less expensive models," he said. "A lot of people who are buying notebooks are students - or parents of students - and cost is usually the number-one issue."
Even so, Nash says the retail sector is key to IBM's plans and the company is committed to increasing its presence in retail as a means of gaining market share. "ThinkPads are on the shelves of Harvey Norman and we intend to see more of that. Retailers are going to play a major part in our plans," he said.
On the distribution front, Sydney-based ThinkPad product manager Tim Gunnell says IBM's recently inked deal with Tech Pacific will also assist the manufacturer in its plans. "We needed to increase our coverage and reach in the market, and TechPac is well-positioned to do that. If you're trying to place a product into the channel, they're a pretty obvious choice," he said. "We're also being distributed by ITG, who are particularly strong in Victoria. We think it's a good distribution mix."
The ThinkPad 365X features a 133MHz Pentium processor, 8Mb RAM (upgradable to 40Mb), 1.08Gb hard drive, 11.3in DSTN display, PCI bus, infra-red. It weighs 2.7kg. ESP: $4,080. The 365XD offers a 1.35Gb hard drive and CD-ROM.
The 560 model features a 133MHz Pentium processor, 8Mb RAM (upgradable to 40Mb), 1.08Gb hard drive, detachable diskette drive, two PCMCIA slots. It weighs 1.8kg. ESP: $6,784.
The 760 series is available in three models:
The 760ED features a 133MHz Pentium processor, 16Mb RAM (upgradable to 104Mb), 2.1Gb hard drive, CD-ROM, MPEG2 chip, 16-bit Sound Blaster Pro audio, hands-free phone capability, digital answer phone, media processor with data/fax modem and Windows 95. ESP: $11,128.
The 760E features a 150MHz Pentium processor, 16Mb RAM (upgradable to 104Mb), 2.1Gb hard drive, 16-bit Sound Blaster Pro audio, hands-free phone capability, digital answer phone, media processor with data/fax modem and Windows 95. ESP: $10,382.
The 760EL features a 133MHz Pentium processor, 16Mb RAM (upgradable to 104Mb), 2.1Gb hard drive, 16-bit Sound Blaster Pro audio and Windows 95. ESP: $8,334.