23 February 2008

The Perfect Laptop

Business Week's recent cover story on Lenovo's new ThinkPad X300 laptop caught my attention. Can you imagine spending 2 years working on a super thin, super light laptop for release in February 2008 and then have Apple announce the MacBook Air on January 15th? What a commotion must have been had at Lenovo after Jobs' keynote!

It turns out that the X300 is actually lighter than the MacBook Air when configured without the DVD drive. It apparently also snugly fits into a mailing envelope! It has 3 USB ports and an Ethernet port and includes a solid state drive as the only drive option. What's really striking about the X300 is Lenovo's whole approach to the project. When they think of the "perfect laptop" they don't see the svelte curves or shiny metal jewel that Apple sees, they see 90 degree angles, boxy, matte-black, computer that looks all business. David Hill, Lenovo's chief designer and "keeper of the ThinkPad tradition" said it best: "I'm a bit tired of looking at silver computers, I'd never wear a silver business suit."

Despite the fashions of the day, Lenovo is not only trying to remain true to, but underscore the original ThinkPad design by Richard Sapper. I'm impressed by this. They are trying to build an equally, if not more impressive laptop than the MacBook Air, and retain their own identity in the process. It's both courageous and unique these days. In some ways it says something about the times that "simple, elegant, matte-black machines with precise, 90-degree corners" would be thinking differently, while so many are trying to "be like Apple." My applause goes to Lenovo for being themselves! Well done!

2 comments:

Eric said...

Point taken, but perfect? Please. It runs Windows.

And who wears black to work any more? You want to look like IBM clones from the 80s who sing songs like preppies and subscribe to group think which require avoiding innovation at any cost?

The problem with this Lenovo is that they are not enough like Apple, not that they aren't being different. While at the same time, their strength is that being like Apple, they came up with a great little laptop that fits their culture, and breaks with the past in terms of lightness and thinness. And they included some things Apple didn't!

So, kudos to Lenovo, but lets not pretend that this laptop in any way takes away from what Apple has done as well. Why does either one need to lose for the other to win? Such a snide remark about silver suits smacks of sour grapes and insecurity, not confidence.

David Weiss said...

Eric,

Great comment. I guess I wasn't too clear about the perfect thing. One person's "perfect" will not be another person's "perfect." and I think Lenovo is reacting to this in a good way. Is the X300 my "perfect" laptop? Of course not, but it might be for someone else. So you're exactly right: Both can win, because the are different. This kind of diverse and multi-faceted competition is the stuff I like best.