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IBM debuts hard drive ‘airbag’ crash protection

Park your heads before impact

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Reg Kit Watch IBM today debuted a new hard drive system designed to prevent data damage when the notebook is dropped. The technology, dubbed the IBM Active Protection System (APS), will appear in new ThinkPad R50 and T41 series machines.

Essentially, APS watches out for sudden movement and parks the hard drive's read/write head when it detects. The heads are released when the system is no longer moving. IBM compares the technology to a car's airbag system, and although APS just parks the drive heads, IBM reckons that should be enough to protect the drive when the host machine is dropped.

While a fall will probably break the rest of the notebook - screens are particularly vulnerable - at least the data will remain intact, allowing corporate IT departments to swap the drive and all its valuable data into a new machine, IBM believes.

In our experience, damaged laptops that have been surrendered to company BOFHs for repair rarely come back without the hard drive reformatted in any case, but IBM clearly knows some more accommodating IT staff than we do.

APS will be added to the new ThinkPad R50, a 3.3cm (1.3in) thick 2.5kg (5.6lb) portable offered with either a 14 or 15in screen. IBM is offering a variety of processors, including the Pentium M Centrino chip, Mobile Celeron and Mobile Pentium 4s. A range of hard drive capacities, optical storage units and graphics chips are available through IBM's BTO service. As an alternative to Centrino's 802.11b WLAN adaptor, IBM is offering its own a/b/g wireless card.

The T41 extends the T series, with its 14.1in displays, ATI Mobility Radeon graphics and Pentium M processors, 40 or 80GB of hard drive space and DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive.

Both new models feature IBM's Embedded Security Subsystem, its wireless security enhancement technology.

In addition to launching the R50 and T41, IBM today updated its X31, R40, R40e and G40 ThinkPads, adding wireless connectivity to more models and upping the Mobile Pentium 4, Pentium M and desktop Pentium 4 processor clock speeds available.

All new ThinkPad models are available immediately online at www.ibm.com and through IBM's reseller channels. US prices for the ThinkPad R50 start at $1529; prices for the ThinkPad T41 start at $1649; prices for the ThinkPad X31 start at $1449; prices for the R40 and R40e start at $1129 and $849, respectively; and prices for the ThinkPad G40 start at $899. ®

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