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IBM puts the PC business on the block

It's all over the wire.

Aside from the historical significance of this, my first feeling about was a bit of sadness, and thinking "No!". My second feeling was surprise at feeling anything about a corporate acquisition! My third :) was a realization that if this happened Apple would be alone, as far as I'm concerned, in moving the ball forward on laptops. IBM was the king of laptop evolution in the PC side, and even though Dell and HP are respectable, they've never shown huge amounts of initiative there (HP has been much better in terms of its PocketPC work, or rather, the iPaq team from Compaq was and HP has kept the ball rolling).

So my thought had a lot less to do with the PC business itself than with the Thinkpad business. IBM desktops were always a bit clunky IMO, and, excellent keyboards aside, they didn't do much for me. No doubt the failed PS/2-OS/2 experiment in the late 80s (remember Microchannel?) had a huge effect on the vitality of the IBM desktop PC line for a long time.

But the Thinkpads! Almost all of my laptops have been Thinkpads. Best keyboards of any laptop. Simple, good design. Amazing reliability. I got a 560e in 1998 and in 2000 I gave it to my parents so they could keep using it. And it still works fine. The battery started failing two years ago. 4 years. No doubt we take good care of the machines, but still, that's quite a long time for these things.

More than anything, what will be missed the most will be the innovation that Thinkpads championed. While a bit dry in terms of design (certainly Apple has been far ahead of everyone else on that count, as usual), they've always moved forward in terms of functionality. Thinkpads where the first to include 10.4" color TFTs, introduced the trackpoint device (invented by IBM, the trackpad was invented by Apple), first notebook to include a CD reader, ultraportables (the 560), first to integrate DVD, and small but useful things like the "ThinkLight" the little light at the top of the LCD that illuminates the keyboard. That, plus what didn't make it in the long such as the amazing Butterfly keyboard or LCD projection that was done by removing the back cover on the display and then resting the now see through LCD on top of an overhead projector, and other things like the Thinkpad Transnote.

Anyway. Maybe IBM will keep part of research focused on that (I hope so!). But it seems more likely that from the point that this transaction happens (assuming it does) then Apple will be the main flag-bearer for innovation on notebooks.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 3 2004 at 10:11 AM

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