IBM announces ramped up ThinkPads and NetVistas –

BOSTON -- IBM Corp. on Tuesday released new models in existing lines of notebooks and PCs aimed at offering home and business users more functions through hardware and software features.

IBM announced new models in three of its notebook lines -- the ThinkPad A21e series, the i Series 1200 and i Series 3000 -- and two new PCs, the NetVista A20 and NetVista A20i.

The new notebook models in the A21e series run on Intel Corp.'s Celeron processors at either 650MHz or 700MHz. The notebooks have hard drives ranging from 10G bytes to 20G bytes, a CD-ROM or DVD (digital versatile disc) drive and 64M bytes of RAM, expandable to 256M bytes. A modem and network interface card come as ports in the laptop, with an option to integrate the two on a single card.

Targeted at business users, the basic A21e series 2655-21U notebook computer has a Celeron 650MHz processor, 12.1-inch TFT (thin film transistor) display, 64M bytes of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random access memory), a 20G byte hard drive, 24x CD-ROM drive, 56K bps (bits per second) modem and Windows 98 is priced at US$1,499.

The refurbished i Series of laptops have new models that integrate an 802.11b wireless LAN (local area network) port, aimed at small businesses interested in creating a wireless network. A basic i Series 1300 notebook, containing Intel's Celeron 650MHz processor, 12.1-inch TFT display, a 10G byte hard drive, 64M bytes of RAM, a 24x CD-ROM drive, a 56K bps modem, a lithium ion battery, an 802.11b wireless LAN port and Windows Me costs $1,449.

"We offer 128-bit encryption to ensure data security," said Christopher Mantin, worldwide ThinkPad segment manager at IBM, regarding recent reports about the vulnerability of wireless LANs created through 802.11b ports.

He said that the i Series 1300 will be a big boon for students as they will be able to plug the laptop into a university network using the 802.11b port.

The stripped-down i Series 1200 notebook, powered by a 600MHz Celeron, comes without a wireless LAN port, but has an integrated modem. It is priced at $1149.

The CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drives come plugged into the Ultrabay 2000 drive, which allows for high- capacity data storage via a range of storage devices like floppy or Zip drives. The battery life of the laptops range from 2.5 to 3.7 hours, depending upon the size and speed of the laptop. The laptops come pre-loaded with either Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 Professional or Windows 98 Second Edition.

The NetVista A20 range of PCs, targeted at small businesses, features Celeron processors running at up to 766MHz or Pentium III processors at up to 1GHz. The machine has two additional serial ports, primarily targeted at businesses that want to attach legacy instruments, like a credit-card reader, that enable business transactions. Prices start at $765.

"Some of the first generation NetVista PCs were simplified by introducing legacy-free features" (like Universal Serial Bus ports), said Bob Gleason, NetVista product marketing manager. "By introducing legacy devices (like serial ports), we are extending support to our existing user base, the traditional desktop (PC) users."

NetVista A20i, targeted at home users, features a Celeron processor at up to 766MHz or Pentium III processors at up to 933MHz. The new Internet-friendly NetVista systems have enhanced multimedia features and the ability to play video and music files. Prices for the A20i start at $688.

Both NetVista models are available with 64M bytes to 128M bytes of SDRAM, a 56K bps modem, a network interface card and hard drives ranging from 10G bytes to 30G bytes. A choice of pre-loaded operating systems, including Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 98/ME or Windows NT 4.0 are available. Depending on the NetVista model, users can opt for either Lotus Development Corp.'s SmartSuite Millennium edition or Microsoft Office 2000.

A monitor has to be purchased separately for both NetVista models, said an IBM spokesman, though the company can provide CRT monitors at prices ranging from $159 to $249.

The NetVista desktops feature new tools aimed at making data transfer and access to IBM support easier. The "IBM Access" software provides users with one-click access to 'e-support', IBM's Web-based support service that runs around the clock.

The PCs also contains software to help migrate user preferences and applications to a new computer.

"A software function allows (users) to take personal documents and settings and transfer them from old to the new platform," Gleason said, adding that the software function is available only for Wintel-based PCs.

The NetVista, though an Internet PC, is more like a standard desktop, Gleason said.

"It has all the power of a standard desktop," he said.

The NetVista PCs are selling well, especially among business users, Gleason said, though the device is making gains in the home market. "The A20i is a step in bolstering our (home) market," he said.

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