Big Blue unveiling colorful ThinkPad

IBM's i-Series 1400 to include choice of seven different snap-on covers.

IBM will make a fashion statement Monday, when it announces three new ThinkPad i-Series 1400 notebooks.

The company has redesigned the 12-month-old line of notebook PCs for consumers with greater individualisation in mind, said Bill Holtshouser, program director for consumer mobile product marketing in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Purchasers of one of three new i-Series notebooks will be able to choose between seven different snap-on covers, ranging from a metallic green to an IBM blue colour. The cover fits over the back of the ThinkPad's display panel. "It goes back to a study we did over a year ago when we introduced the i-Series. We got the sense that personalisation was a very important feature to incorporate," Holtshouser said.

But IBM wanted to do it in a way that is flexible. IBM may introduce more colours in the future, he said, depending on feedback from consumers. "Think university logos," Holtshouser said. "We could do a lot with these." IBM will introduce three new ThinkPad 1400 i-Series models Monday. The entry-level model -- the $1,499 (£915) i-Series 1420 -- comes with a mobile Intel Celeron 433MHz, 13-inch high performance addressing display, 32MB synchronous dynamic RAM, 4.8GB hard disk drive and 24X CD-ROM.

IBM's mid range i-Series model, the 1460, steps up to a 14.1-inch active matrix display, 64MB of RAM and a digital video disk drive. It is priced at $2,199. The high-end 1480 model adds a 466MHz mobile Celeron chip and a 6.4GB hard drive for $2,399.

Besides being more colourful, IBM says the newest i-Series models, measuring 1.7 and 1.8 inches thick, are .25 of an inch thinner, and, at 7.5 to 7.8 pounds, several ounces lighter than their predecessors.

IBM has also added ThinkLight, a light that can be used to illuminate the keyboard of I-Series 1460 and 1480 models in low-light conditions. The latest models also sport new Easy Launch buttons, which take users to different spots on the Web, including an e-commerce site developed by IBM and Lycos.

A video out feature will allow consumers to connect a DVD-equipped model to a television to view DVD movies. Apple's iMac and iBook were the first computer products to be available in multiple colours. IBM's move to add colour to the i-Series follows multi-colored forays by other PC makers, such as Dell.

Dell's Inspiron 3500 notebook, announced in mid-September, comes in two colours, blue and gray. Hewlett-Packard is also expected to announce new consumer notebooks, possibly under its Pavilion brand, in at least one new colour next week, sources said.