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ThinkPad - 25 Years of Innovation

In 2017, we’re celebrating twenty-five years of innovation with the ThinkPad and the visions it brings to life, and part of that celebration is looking back and understanding what makes the ThinkPad so great.

“It’s black and it has a red dot in the middle” says Kevin Beck, Worldwide Competitive Analyst, Lenovo. Yes, the ThinkPad is iconic, but despite the consistency in design it always manages to innovate.  In 2017, we’re celebrating twenty-five years of innovation with the ThinkPad and the visions it brings to life, and part of that celebration is looking back and understanding what makes the ThinkPad so great.

One of the things you always end up discussing when talking about the ThinkPad with anyone in the know is ‘firsts’. ThinkPad was the first laptop to have a CD-ROM in a notebook PC, the first colour screen notebook, the first wifi enabled laptop, the first laptop with a biometric fingerprint reader, the first broad-scale use of carbon fibre in laptops… you get the idea. “These are technologies now that we take for granted” quips Nick Reynolds, CMO, Lenovo AP stating innovation and staying true to its roots is what has set the ThinkPad apart for twenty-five long years. But it’s not tech for tech’s sake, Kevin Beck points out “it’s not just about the technology milestones. All those things were meaningful to a customer. All those things solved somebody’s problems” and ultimately that’s what expresses the ThinkPad more than any other device.

ThinkPad is a device defined by solutions; engineering feats and technological innovations brought about by user needs. Lindsay Tobin, Senior Product Manager, Lenovo ANZ talks about how ThinkPad innovations are about consistency and usability, striving to create a device that is “built for business” and for the user. Innovation isn’t always brought about by consumers though, sometimes it’s a solution our engineers and designers are seeking that pushes ThinkPad to new heights. Kevin Beck tells a story discussing how the first ever ThinkPad (the 700C) was almost delayed as the engineering team grappled with the challenge of eliminating electromagnetic interference while keeping the device light and small enough for user needs. In the end they made it, and it was solving this problem that brought about the 750C which was so reliable it went to space. And so on, one generation of solutions leading to another generation of innovation.

Customer advisory councils, along with big data driven insights dashboards, industry advisory councils and direct feedback from customers form the backbone of future ThinkPad ideas and design. It’s from this matrix that each new ThinkPad is born. “ThinkPad was never meant to be a fashion brand, it’s always been ultimately about the productivity of the end user” states Kevin Beck. It just happens to be luck that solution over style has created such a visibly recognisable brand, a simple black box with a recognisable red dot in the middle. Beck continues, “for us that is a degree of freedom rather than a limitation, because we always know what the next one is going to look like” given that each ThinkPad has to be engineered to a specific design bar, one that passes Mil-Spec tests to ensure long-term durability, one that has had twenty-five years of innovation behind it, a bar so specific it’s become an iconic product… It’s no surprise having one thing that doesn’t change enables some of the best advances elsewhere.

When it comes to the future of the ThinkPad it’s about keeping it right for the customer by improving interaction without reducing reliability. Voice interaction is becoming more important, we’ve shown concepts like bendable screens, we’ve got yoga, clamshell and tablet form factors to maintain a variety of modes that any individual can interact with. While the ThinkPad is a business laptop, it’s not only a business laptop. The user is mobile, “ultimately what we’ve been trying to do for twenty-five years is look at how the individual uses computing technology to accomplish something either in their home life or their business life” states Kevin Beck. With this in front-of-mind, the ThinkPad will always be about solving problems with innovation while staying true to its roots, and those roots go back to 1982 and are made of innovation and durability. We don’t know exactly what the future is going to bring, but we do believe there will always be a ThinkPad.

See the full interview with Kevin Beck, Worldwide Competitive Analyst, Lenovo.

See the full interview with Lindsay Tobin, Senior Product Manager, Lenovo ANZ.

See the full interview with Nick Reynolds, CMO, Lenovo AP.

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