ThinkPad 25 Celebrates 25 Years of Solid Innovation

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It is not often we get a collectible notebook. I’ve had a few over the years—the ThinkPad Butterfly, the Acer Ferrari Laptop, and there have been several Dell collectibles like the Dell Adamo. Unlike most laptops, even when these are “done” from a computing sense you generally keep them because they are a part of history.

One of the most iconic brands in notebooks however is the ThinkPad. The ThinkPad arguably had the first “collectible” (the only one I sadly didn’t keep) and they just recently announced their 25-year anniversary edition—the ThinkPad 25—in limited quantities.

Unlike many of the collectibles I’ve mentioned—which were often both pretty and relatively fragile—the ThinkPad 25 reflects its business roots. Like a collectible truck—as opposed to a collectible sportscar—it is comparatively robust.

Let’s talk ThinkPads this week.

The Power of The ThinkPad

As notebooks go, the ThinkPad is arguably the first product that blended design and functionality into a nice balance of design and function. This initially was an IBM product and back when the brand was first created PCs were anything but reliable and robust, so the then ThinkPad team had to really step away from most of the market which was shipping beige crap to create something that wouldn’t damage the IBM brand.

Over time, the ThinkPad brand arguably became more powerful than IBM for most who used the product. The ThinkPad line largely stood above its peers in reliability and its ability to throw off physical damage, and because its iconic design told everyone—from an impressive distance—that it was a ThinkPad. It also reflected on the users who tended at the time to wear suits and be connected more solidly to high level white color executives.

When Lenovo purchased the line from IBM they also took most of the employees and the ThinkPad remains largely a US brand even though the product continues to sell internationally. Fortunately, in China, where Lenovo itself is headquartered, they viewed US brands much like we view German and Japanese brands today—as representing quality—and the ThinkPad delivered. As a result, the ThinkPad today is one of the most powerful, successful, and well-respected laptop lines in the world.

I’ve also been a member of the ThinkPad Advisory Council for decades, so I know this line and what went into it far better than most.

ThinkPad Anniversary Edition

In a way this product reminds me a lot of the electric E-Type that Jaguar is market testing now, and I’m deeply lusting for. The ThinkPad 25 combines the design elements that made the ThinkPad iconic with today’s technology to create a blend of the past and present which should provide a superior solution for professionals that want something that will perform well in their near-term future.

From the past, this is an iconic 14-inch, black ThinkPad with a full 5-row classic lighted keyboard. This is what writers preferred. It provides plenty of screen real estate and it is consistent with the traditional ThinkPad function over form strategy. But this isn’t your dad’s ThinkPad, either. It has a full Intel Core i7 Processor, NVIDIA discrete Graphics, SSD drive, and the display is an HD touch display. They could have gone OLED but—while pretty—that technology pulls down battery life and would have been inconsistent with a product focused like a laser on productivity over appearance.

This isn’t to say the product isn’t attractive, but it isn’t the relatively fragile brushed aluminum that most high design brands favor, which generally doesn’t wear well. It is black, which may not be trendy for laptops but many of us still appreciate its classic beauty.

Wrapping Up

As we move forward into the future, it is important to remember there are things in products we loved that we likely should keep even as we move to the amazing new technologies of the future. Having plenty of screen space, a product that wears well and that we can depend on, and one that doesn’t seem to age are all important aspects from the past.

The ThinkPad 25 anniversary edition laptop blends the past and present together nicely into a product that should keep its owner happy into the near-term future. It is one of those blends that we don’t see often from the group that largely created the laptop computer, and it showcases that when a product is designed right, changing what was right about it shouldn’t be a priority.

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About Author

As President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, Rob provides regional and global companies with guidance in how to create credible dialogue with the market, target customer needs, create new business opportunities, anticipate technology changes, select vendors and products, and practice zero dollar marketing. For over 20 years Rob has worked for and with companies like Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, Sony, USAA, Texas Instruments, AMD, Intel, Credit Suisse First Boston, ROLM, and Siemens.

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