IBM preps X30 Ultraportable

Chases Road Warriors

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

IBM Corp will next week renew its pursuit of the enterprise road warrior with a new "ultraportable" Thinkpad that boasts the first twin-battery offering in its class, and integrated WiFi and Bluetooth wireless comms features.

According to Adrian Horne, a brand specialist with IBM's EMEA HQ, the Thinkpad X30 is aimed squarely at "the road warrior who is out of the office all day for at least several days a week" and who "when they do go back to the office, they just want to have the ability to sit down, replicate and go off again without having to look for LAN cables and other connectors".

The twin-battery option stretches the unplugged life of the X30 to eight hours, giving the out of office worker a full working day before loading the 1.6kg laptop onto the optional "UltraBase", a 0.7kg media "slice" that delivers mains power, and CD and DVD drives. Other optional extras include IBM's iLM300 MicroPortable Data/Video Projector, which weighs in at 1.1kg.

From the IT manager's perspective, IBM's attention to comprehensive security and communications features will be the X30's biggest differentiator. On the security front, support for the IEEE 802.1x extension to standard WLAN security is installed as standard, while the networking options are covered by five options: 802.11b WiFi, Bluetooth, Irda, modem dial-up, and Ethernet. All of the latter five options can potentially be used simultaneously, with IBM's Access Communications wizard handling switching from one to another as applications demand.

In stumping up endorsements for the X30, IBM has persuaded at least one major industry analyst to dub the X30 an "ideal" tool for the mobile professional, although in fact the lack of standard support for a truly mobile communications path, such as GPRS, is a glaring omission. According to Horne, this will be rectified later this year when IBM follows the lead of Dell Computer and Fujitsu-Siemens, by launching a model packaged with a GPRS card and a network service provider contract. Horne wouldn't name the operator, but promised that it would be a leading European mobile service provider, which ought to mean Vodafone if IBM is serious about offering the package on a pan-European basis.

In the meantime, Horne was reluctant to recommend that customers go out and buy their own GPRS cards for a Thinkpad, and pointed out that these devices are still expensive (having only recently become available in volume), and because the vagaries of the GPRS spec mean it is a good idea to pick a card already type-tested by the chosen service operator.

Certainly, IBM does not seem keen on supporting GPRS cards it has not endorsed itself, or which are not tied to an approved network service. The trouble with GPRS, and the reason Dell and Fujitsu-Siemens offer theirs as part of a bundled service deal is that "when things go wrong, people inevitably ring the PC vendor, and not the card supplier of network operator. And we're not in a position to support those kinds of problems," Horne said. The X30 ships next week with prices starting at 1,766 pounds ($2,731).

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