Lenovo aims wireless laptops at SMBs

Lenovo Group Ltd. has released a trio of ThinkPad notebook PCs for the small to midsize business (SMB) market, with multiple wireless connectivity options, including an aggressively priced cellular data modem.

The notebooks, running one of several editions of Windows Vista, have a range of built-in wireless features: an adapter for connecting to any 802.11 wireless LAN, including 802.11n; an antenna designed for cellular data; and Global Positioning System capability. Users can order ThinkPads outfitted with an integrated cellular card for AT&T Inc.'s HSPA/GSM 3G network. BlueTooth is another option. When mobile WiMax cards become available later this year, Lenovo will offer them as an option as well.

The laptop maker is leveraging its enterprise notebook reputation, and trying to expand into the consumer and SMB markets in the U.S.

As part of the release, Lenovo is introducing the first of several service bundles, some including third-party software and subscription services, aimed at SMB technology requirements. The first is ThinkPlus Secure Business, which upgrades the standard one-year warranty to cover on-site, next-day support and replacement; a service through CompuTrace for tracking a stolen or lost notebook; and online data backup.

The notebooks launch a new Lenovo family, the SL Series. The first models are the SL300, SL400 and SL500, distinguished initially by their screen width -- 13, 14 and 15 in., respectively -- and ranging in weight from 4.6 to 6.4 lb. The SL300 offers a LED-backlit display for a much brighter screen image, according to Charles Sune, Lenovo's worldwide segment manager for the series.

All three can be equipped with various models of Intel Corp.'s newest Core 2 Duo processors and the Intel Centrino 2 platform being released this week. The processor speeds range from 1.8 GHz to 2.53 GHz. Memory options range from 1 to 4GB, and disk sizes range from 80GB to 320GB.

For integrated cellular connectivity, Lenovo partnered with AT&T Inc. in the U.S. for 3G connectivity. Apart from the cellular service contract, the hardware for the wireless WAN link is priced at $25 to $30, according to Sune.

All three use Lenovo's Active Protection System, which incorporates an accelerometer to sense a sudden drop and then locks the heads of the hard drive to avoid damage. A growing number of rugged features and technologies are being used to toughen up conventional notebook PCs, rather than being exclusive to fully rugged computers.

All three have been designed with multimedia use in mind, since SMB customers typically use laptops for business computing by day and personal computing by night, according to Sune. They offer HDMI/VGA support for watching high-definition video and optional support for high-definition Blue-Ray recordable optical drive. Another option is an integrated webcam.

The SL400 and SL500 start at about $700, through Lenovo's business partners and online here. The SL300 will be available in August, starting at $800.

This story, "Lenovo aims wireless laptops at SMBs" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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