On the IBM ThinkPad G40

Nomadic with intent?

You may have thought they mean roughly the same, but IBM's announcement of its new G-series ThinkPad amplifies where the differences may lay, and what this may mean as the unwired worlds of mobile and wireless network technologies converge.

The new IBM ThinkPad G40s will incorporate dual band 802.11a/b on certain models, so that makes them wireless right? Yes of course, but despite IBMs talk of the mobile worker, and not sacrificing power for portability, these new laptops weigh in at around 3.5 kilos, so mobility is heavily dependent on upper body strength.

To be fair, the new machines are desktop specification, with the top of the range powered by a 3.0 GHz Intel Pentium 4, up to 15" screen, and full connectivity via integrated Ethernet, modem, a floppy drive, an optical drive and two universal serial bus (USB) ports.

IBM admits that the laptops will probably be used more often tethered to AC mains power than by battery, although the battery life is a respectable maximum of three and a half hours - that's one per kilo! The G40 also has a scarily Big Brother single button access to Big Blue, but this is part of a raft of services aimed at making the G40 easier to manage and deploy in a corporate environment.

So wireless, yes. Powerful, yes. Manageable, yes, but mobile? No.

The G40 will make many users and administrators of corporate networks very happy, and will allow them the odd migration home for the summer evening email on the patio, or occasionally from desk to desk. It's a well-equipped office computer, but the addition of wireless seems more for trend and fashion than immediate need on such a high spec machine.

Being Mobile. Being Wireless.

MIT's Nicholas Negroponte sums up the wireless world of Wi-Fi, as 'nomadic'. The G40, whilst a powerful desktop replacement, it is not the best tool for a nomadic professional working in coffee shops, hotels and airports.

If we ignore the underlying network technologies of wireless Wi-Fi and mobile 3G, the key differences are usage patterns, which are unlikely to change even if the networks converge.

So, independent of network technology we can define 3 categories of unwired usage:

  • Mobile. No time or attention to absorb or use information from a high bandwidth network link, so you use a simple one-handed device, whilst moving and avoiding collisions with people and objects - perhaps it's just a phone?

  • Nomadic. Carry your lightweight technology tools from place to place, but only use them when you arrive. Then you give them your full attention. Perhaps both hands and both eyes, and if you plan to be a nomadic user of the new G40, both arms. Nomadic users could be called Road Warriors, but they're more likely to be Coffee Quaffers, or Lounge Lifers.
  • Migrant. Working in a flexible office environment, and occasionally from home - this is the ideal user for the IBM G40.

The harder choice is which is the right tool for the nomadic professionals - laptops or something lighter? ©