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Lenovo Goes Full Tilt Into Consumer PCs

1/07/2008 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Lenovo has revealed its first venture into the consumer market with the introduction of the IdeaPad laptop line.

Lenovo, which made the announcement Jan. 3 and will be at International CES in N216 at the North Hall, has been a player in the business notebook market since it purchased IBM's ThinkPad business notebook line three years ago. But this is the first time the company has designed a product for consumers from the bottom up.

ThinkPads have been sold through retail for several years, but targeted strictly at small business customers. There is no immediate plan to bring Lenovo consumer desktops into the U.S. market, but the company said it could happen down the road.

Craig Merrigan, Lenovo's global consumer marketing VP, said the company is planning a big splash at CES to hype the move that includes jointly sponsoring events with Intel and Microsoft. As a follow up after the show, Lenovo will launch a unified marketing campaign that will include the new IdeaPad and ThinkPad lines

Merrigan said the company's product line will trend toward higher price points with the three models starting at $799. There will be preconfigured models available at retail along with a configure-to-order program for laptops ordered direct from Lenovo.

The IdeaPad will come in three widescreen size categories: 11-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch with the 15-inch shipping in January. The 17-inch will follow it by several weeks and the 11-inch will come in the March-April timeframe. Final pricing for the preconfigured versions was not set as of press time.

All three models will feature a facial-recognition security system that has the owner taking a snapshot of his or her face with the notebook's built-in camera. Whenever the notebook is turned on the camera will see who is operating the device and compare it to the stored image. If it does not match, the notebook will not grant access. Several IDs can be stored.

"We think this will be a cool and fun thing," Merrigan said.

Another shared feature between the three notebooks is the industrial design theme.

All have what Merrigan described as a frameless screen, meaning there is no bezel area surrounding the LCD.

"No bezel makes it look clean and fashion forward," he said.

Unlike the company's ThinkPad line, which comes in basic black, the IdeaPad will take advantage of the trend toward personalizing notebooks; all three have distinctive industrial designs that include various colors, textures and patterns.

Merrigan said, the 15-inch model's casing will have a woven, fabric like texture and the 11-inch also will feature a raised, texture rich casing along with a bright red top and black bottom color scheme, said Merrigan.

Individually, the 17-inch line will have an optional higher-end configuration called Gamezone. For gamers, Lenovo will add several gaming specific features including programmable buttons, oversized control buttons that are normally used for gaming and a small LCD embedded on the keyboard to indicate how the notebook is performing. The processor can also be placed in over-clock mode by flipping a switch.

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