Whither the Thinkpad?

Summary:If you read today's report by News.com's John Spooner on how Lenovo is moving forward with its plans (despite still be subject to government approval) to take the reigns of IBM"s PC outfit, it sure looks like Lenovo has in place better than 90 percent of the plans that need to be in place in order to manage the transition in a way that minimizes the chances of a customer exodus.

IBM Thinkpad Logo
If you read today's report by News.com's John Spooner on how Lenovo is moving forward with its plans (despite still be subject to government approval) to take the reigns of IBM"s PC outfit, it sure looks like Lenovo has in place better than 90 percent of the plans that need to be in place in order to manage the transition in a way that minimizes the chances of a customer exodus. But I can't help but wonder what it will mean for the Thinkpad if things don't go swimmingly.

For almost fifteens year now, Thinkpads have been my stalwart road warrior. Sure, they've had their share of problems (mostly with the displays) but every time I've ventured off the Thinkpad ranch, I found myself eventually coming back for to the sleek black notebook computers. In coming up with the Thinkpads (I had a Thinkpad 750 when they first came out), IBM defined an era of mobile computing. Thinkpads with their various innovations over the years -- from trackpoints to keyboards that defined the word "ergonomic" (including the collapsible butterfly keyboard released in the mid-90's) to their subnotebook designs -- have always been the ones to beat. On a recent trip to California, I couldn't help but notice how many people in the coffee shops, airports, on the planes, and in the offices I visited had Thinkpads. What a franchise, that's all I can say.

Now with Lenovo taking over, I can't help but wonder -- especially with all of the other vendors looking to create uncertainty over the deal -- whether this is the end of the road for the storied franchise. Lenovo is on the hook to keep the brand going for five years. But I wonder if the brand will make it that far. Will the trademark black notebooks with the colorful red, green, and blue logos (pictured above left) disappear into industry folklore like so many other legends of the business. Or will it endure to the point that Lenovo decides to keep it going beyond the five years it has agreed to. My sense is the former and to that I say.... "Thinkpad.. it's been nice knowin' ya and when your gone, you'll be missed, but not forgotten."

Topics: Lenovo

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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