Lenovo's 'Retro ThinkPad' project sees its potential market divide

Lenovo's 'Retro ThinkPad' project could be running into trouble as it seeks to meet the needs of two different types of user: mobile road warriors and power users.

Survey results for screen size

ThinkPad users got excited about Lenovo's idea to produce a new "ThinkPad Classic" that would provide all the best features of this long-running premium brand. But with the results of the second survey, and the launch of the third survey, it looks like going wrong. Perhaps we need not one "Retro ThinkPad" but two: a lightweight X version for road warriors, and a T version for power users.

When I wrote about the project last month, I suggested that the highly-mobile X220 would be the best place to start, and in the survey, I voted for a 12.5 inch screen. However, it turns out that I'm in a minority of only 14.3 percent (graph above). More than half of the 6,555 respondents want a 14.1 inch or 15.6 inch screen, which might well eliminate me as a potential buyer.

In today's "Retro ThinkPad" blog post, Lenovo's David Hill says: "Related to that, we've been really good at being able to fit a 14.1 inch display in the footprint of a 13.3 inch ThinkPad."

That could tempt me, but I'd rather have a 13.3 inch screen in an 11.6 inch form factor - which is pretty much what you get with the Dell XPS 13 (2015).

The third survey may show a similar split between people who want a fast quad-core processor (even if it has a high TDP) and a low voltage battery-saving dual-core processor. Again, we're talking different use-cases. The power users want a workstation processor, while the road warriors want a thinner ThinkPad with a longer battery life.

It's hard to predict how this one is going to come out. Will Dave Hill be able to find a compromise that suits both camps, or will a compromise spec disappoint both camps, potentially leading to financial disaster?

Personally, I'd like to see the project result in two different Retro ThinkPads, each version optimized for its specific market. If not, then I'd recommend Lenovo go for the workstation market and ignore people like me. There are, after all, dozens of lightweight laptops and Ultrabooks already on the market.

Indeed, Lenovo has lots of options, including the X1 Carbon and X250, plus a plethora of Yoga convertibles with 11.6 inch and 13.3 inch screens. Some of them are cheap enough to be disposable.

The great ThinkPads from the past typically cost £/$2,000 or so, and you wanted them to last a long time. When you can buy an ultralight Yoga for £/$200 to £/$350, it's no big deal if it only lasts a couple of years, as long as it does the job.

If you're interested in buying a Retro ThinkPad, there are now three surveys: Survey 1, Survey 2 and Survey 3. (There will be a Survey 4 later.) But if you're not interested in buying a Retro ThinkPad, please don't fill them in.