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IBM Portables

Change the ThinkPad and It Will Die 347

ErichTheRed writes "Here's an interesting editorial piece about the ThinkPad over at CNN. It mirrors what many ThinkPad devotees have been saying since Lenovo started tweaking the classic IBM design to make the ThinkPad more like a MacBook, Sony or other high-end consumer device. I'm a big fan of these bulletproof, decidedly unsexy business notebooks, and would be unhappy if Lenovo decided to sacrifice build quality for coolness. Quoting: 'Before doing anything drastic, Lenovo would be wise to review the spectacular rise and fall of Blackberry-maker Research in Motion. The mobile handset manufacturer tried to take on Apple by launching a number of products aimed at the retail consumer after the launch of the iPhone. It released the devastatingly bad Blackberry Storm as a response to the iPhone and later the Playbook to take on the iPad. The Storm failed because it was hastily put together in a mad dash and lacked the signature Blackberry QWERTY keyboard ... The Playbook failed because the Blackberry ecosystem had at the point of its launched more or less collapsed, making the Playbook just another iPad clone no one wanted. Meanwhile, the original Blackberry was left to wither away as the company focused on chasing Apple and wasn't updated in a meaningful way, making it look just old and tired.'"
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Change the ThinkPad and It Will Die

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:38PM (#42525113)

    Not the stand up meetings, or scrumaster training, but just the part where your development is an iterative process with constant feedback from end users.

    I work in wireless and have many friends who were fans of the original Blackberry's. I could easily have told themt the Storm was a failure out of the gate, and they could have gone back and added their signature keyboard to it and tried again.

    If Lenovo wants to "improve" the thinkpad, they should make a few hundred, and give them out as a loaners for peoples' systems that are in for repair, under the condition that they fill out a form at the end that asks whether they'd like to keep the loaner instead of their repaired system. If you don't break 50% on that form, you go back to the drawing board. The Storm wouldn't have broken 10%.

  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:43PM (#42525161)

    I love technology.

    You pick up a blackberry. It feels like a cheap plastic piece of shit.

    You pick up a acer. It feels like a cheap plastic piece of shit.

    You pick up a HP. It feels like a cheap plastic piece of shit.

    You pick up a (insert anything electronic and mass produced that the bean counters got at). It feels like a cheap plastic piece of shit.

    This is because.. they are cheap pieces of shit.

    Pick up a nice Thinkpad. It does not feel like a cheap piece of shit. Especially the old ones.

    Pick up ANYTHING APPLE. It does not feel like a cheap piece of shit.

    If you are in charge of decisions at a large company publicly traded and cannot figure out what you do to your product image.. those little cents you save here and there, all turn your products in to cheap feeling plastic pieces of shit. Your brand also turns into a piece of shit. I feel sad for HP. At least SGI died.

    Rant off.

  • Yes, it will die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:44PM (#42525173)
    I've had couple of generations, and our current model for my wife's use is an X301. We love its industrial ruggedness (for a non-ruggedized machine) and its very light weight for its size.

    But, I've owned Toshibas, Dells, and a Gateway, so I'm not opposed to other brands. When we bought the X301 it came with a free Ideapad S10-2, which is what I have on-hand as a quick-availability machine in the living room. Build Thinkpads like the Ideapads and you'll lose us as a customer. Even though the X301 was very expensive ($1700 if memory serves) I'd still rather buy quality an reliability in a package that looks businesslike and doesn't scream, "steal me!" over most of the stuff out there. If that paradigm changes, I don't need to keep buying.
  • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:45PM (#42525187) Homepage

    People like nice stuff. And Apple is convincing more and more companies that people are willing to pay for nice stuff. Though Apple is exceptionally good at balancing nice and cost.

  • I like them (Score:2, Insightful)

    by XaXXon ( 202882 ) <> on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:46PM (#42525191) Homepage

    I just saw one of the new thinkpads and I thought it was actually a step in the right direction. Nice keyboard, nicer lines.

    I think you can have a good build quality and not make it look like crap. Apple makes the best operating and best looking hardware in the same packages.. so why can't someone else?

  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:52PM (#42525285) Homepage

    I think I can honestly say that I have had Thinkpads for 20 years and I have never had a bad experience on them (other than having a six year old system at one point that could run Cygwin but basically nothing else - the story about how I got the replacement made me a legend at work) - they have travelled literally around the world at least twice and have almost as many frequent flyer miles as I do.

    They're great road warrior machines, well built, well thought out (their docking ports are worth every penny) and, amazingly enough, they're probably the only brand that didn't loose their quality when they were bought out/sold (I'm still pissed at what happened to Alienware).

    Hopefully they'll keep a few of the old ones around so I can stock up before they try to emulate Apple.


  • by stemarcoh ( 2110284 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:55PM (#42525313)
    Lenovo was one of the few vendors to retain the standard 2x3 key configuration for the Insert/Delete/Home/End/PgUp/PgDn keys. This made it very easy to feel your way to these keys rather than a very unhelpful linear layout. It seems the newer models no longer retain this intuitive and most basic configuration. That was enough to hold my attention in the past even if it meant less CPU or other features that, in the end, don't matter that much to 95% of users (please don't yell at me, I know there are plenty who want the fastest, biggest, etc) But now, I can get any old laptop. They're all the same.
  • by ifiwereasculptor ( 1870574 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:05PM (#42525389)

    Rant off.

    I'll take you up on that offer. Why are people so concerned with how things "feel"? It's a phone. It doesn't "feel" like anything. You feel. The device is.

    Which leads to the second part: it doesn't "feel plasticky", nor does it "feel cheap". It is plasticky and you think it's cheap because you have equated plastic to inferiority. Which isn't necessarily true. If you have a mobile device that tends to get dropped (or even flung) quite often, guess what sort of body will be better at absorbing shocks: plastic or aluminum.

    Plastic can be a wise decision, and because of fashion or just plain wrong generalizations (plastic is - historically, even - often used as a cheaper alternative to better materials) it's apparently now acceptable to "feel" something as "cheap", and that's it. Review sites do it all the time. No further investigation needed; it "feels", therefore it is, in a bizarre twist of Descartes. Give me data, not worthless subjective assumptions. They feel stupid.

  • by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:05PM (#42525395)

    Redesigning even a small custom piece of plastic has a huge pipeline to get it designed, prototyped, final mold made, tooled, and built.

    True now, but in a few years, 3d printing will be filling this niche even nicer.

  • by DriveDog ( 822962 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:06PM (#42525411)
    But then you put it down anything less than extremely softly, and the screen breaks. For Apple prices, they should come with Gorilla Glass.
  • by jlehtira ( 655619 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:10PM (#42525459) Journal

    Listening to the constant feedback from users was the problem.

    Same thing happened with Nokia phones. After iPhone came out, most users switched over. Some still thought their Nokia phones were better suited to them, but majority liked iPhone better. So Nokia started making iPhone-like phones, losing their remaining customers.

  • by pesho ( 843750 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:24PM (#42525589)

    They are still well build and well designed, and that's why they have a loyal following. I bought my thinkpad (I also own a think station) because it was well designed, which allows me to:

    1. Service and upgrade it effortlessly. How many laptops do you know where you need to remove just one screw to change the hard drive? They even have the service and repair manuals on their website!

    2. Have a good keyboard with that wonderful red cl... mousey thing.

    3. Have 16GB of RAM.

    The rest of the features are also top quality, without being flashy (back-light keyboard, IPS screens, extra large wifi antennas)

    Apple products are well designed, but with a completely different goal in mind. They are trying to prevent you from accessing the hardware (hell you are not allowed even to change the battery). Trying to byte into apple's user base is the stupidest thing they can do. Apple fan's are not going to buy lenovo just because it looks as cool as apple product. On the other hand the people that buy thinkpads for what they are will drop them as a ton of bricks.

    I can't imagine cushier job than a thinkpad brand manager: Just sit back and don't do anything, besides making sure that the quality stays the same, the corners are sharp and the color is black. Every year you spend not doing anything only strengthens the brand. So why change a ting?

  • by LaughingRadish ( 2694765 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:29PM (#42525651) Journal

    Lenovo has already started to mess with the ThinkPads. It used to be that the keyboard layout was a seven-row deal with the keys sensibly placed and spaced. What they have now is a six-row deal with the function keys squashed together and the keys from the seventh row scattered about seemingly at random. Howls of protest went up about it and the result was this [] condescending blog post from Lenovo telling people to just deal with it. Here's a selection [] of commentary.

  • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:44PM (#42525801)

    Gorilla Glass' primary feature is scratch-resistance, not shatter-proofing. Apple already uses Gorilla Glass. To me, it seems like their devices shatter so easily for three reasons:
    - The "glass sandwich" design (double the chance of shattering)
    - Flat flush face (my Nexus S has a slight curve to the face, which means when I drop it, none of the screen actually impacts the ground)
    - Aluminium instead of plastic (it increases the phone's weight unnecessarily, meaning more damage when it drops)

  • by knarf ( 34928 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:57AM (#42532743) Homepage

    Just use 3D printing to produce injection molds, and use those molds to produce the parts. In this sense the evolution of manufacturing seems to follow the evolution of (book/newspaper) printing, from hand-set to Linotype [] to offset to laser. 3D-printed molds place manufacturing at the Linotype stage...

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall