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Lean, mean ThinkPad machine wins client-hardware category

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“Simply the thinnest and best-designed notebook ever” is how J. Gerry Purdy, president of Mobile Insights Inc., a mobile-computing consultancy in Mountain View, Calif., refers to Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp.’s ThinkPad 600 notebook.

Voters in the Client Systems category of the 1998 Datamation Product of the Year balloting wholeheartedly agree: The ThinkPad 600 surged ahead of the competition, pulling in 255 of the 748 votes (34%) cast.

With its light weight, slim build, and generous 13.3-inch TFT XGA display, the ThinkPad is on a lot of short lists. Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Inc., a consultancy in San Jose, says the ThinkPad 600 is the best in its class. “It’s a solid mobile performer that is great as a primary computer as well.”

Coming in second is the Sun Ultra 5 Workstation from Sun Microsystems Inc., of Palo Alto, with 190 votes (25%). Many users say they like the Ultra 5’s PC-like architecture and low-cost upgrade path. Corky Brunskill, director of Sciences and Engineering Node Services at the State University of New York at Buffalo, found the Sun Ultra 5 “an extremely economical way of offering a powerful UNIX workstation to both our faculty and students.” Analyst Peter ffoulkes of San Jose-based Dataquest Inc., considers the Sun Ultra 5 and the entire Darwin family of products to be proof that RISC/UNIX workstations can be competitive with NT workstations in both price and performance. The products have “given a new lease of life to the UNIX workstation market,” ffoulkes says.

Coming in third with 122 votes (16%) is the Optiplex GX1 PC from Dell Computer Corp., of Round Rock, Texas. Consistently rated highly, the GX1 distinguishes itself both technically and through Dell’s customer support.

Rounding out the category are the Portege 7000 laptop from Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., of New York City, with 97 votes (13%); the hand-held Nino from Phillips Mobile Computing Group, a division of Phillips Electronics North America Corp., of Campbell, Calif., with 62 votes (8%); and Clio from Vadem Inc., of San Jose, with 22 votes (3%). There was speculation among analysts that the voting might have been more heavily weighted toward notebook and desktop units simply because more people use them. But hand-held units are gaining in popularity as the Windows CE operating system matures.

It comes down to the “human touch”

Bill Richards, technology manager at Hewitt Associates, a professional-services firm in Lincolnshire, Ill., recently purchased more than a thousand ThinkPad 600 units for his company’s mobile workforce, which numbers nearly 1,500.

“We just upgraded from the ThinkPad 560, and we’re finding the ThinkPad 600 more robust and more expandable,” Richards says. “The introduction of the ThinkPad 600 gave me the opportunity to move our employees to a one-size-fits-all strategy.”

It was tough deciding between the ThinkPad 600 and the Dell Latitude CPI, but in the end, it came down to “human touch,” says Richards.

“It just felt better,” he says. “It had to do with the touch of the keypad and the intelligence of the controls, like the little latches they included for removing the battery and other components.”
–Karen D. Schwartz

Karen D. Schwartz is a freelance business and technology writer based in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at

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