TORONTO — As IBM celebrates the ThinkPad’s tenth anniversary, the company unveiled a PC strategy Monday to help customers address common business issues like managing complex IT environments and tracking business assets in a more intuitive manner.

The strategy will see Big Blue consolidate

its complete PC portfolio — including notebooks, desktops, displays, accessories, services — under the Think brand. The first iteration of the campaign is the launch of ThinkVantage Technologies, a suite of software tools that are based on autonomic computing. These are PCs or servers designed to self-heal, self-manage, self-optimize and self-protect functionality. ThinkVantage is slated for launch in the first quarter of next year.

“”The ability to be autonomic is self-configuring, it’s self-healing, self-protecting and self-optimizing, so that a PC has an awareness of its own in the PC infrastructure. That’s where we’re going,”” said Harry Wttewaall, national ThinkPad specialist, IBM Canada Ltd., comparing the technology to how a human body can intricately and intuitively adjust to any physical situation.

ThinkVantage Technologies will include RapidRestore, a software tool that can restore previously saved data and applications after a software failure and ImageUltra Builder, a toolkit for IT departments to curb the number of software images they support. ThinkCentre desktop PCs will replace the NetVista brand, while IBM will introduce a line of ThinkVision displays, Think accessories and ThinkServices offerings next year.

“”There’s a commonality to the design elements, making things simpler and more secure for our customers. So we’re trying to remove the complexity so the end user customer can focus on their business.””

The Think portfolio will also integrate biometric technologies. In March, for example, Anaheim, Calif.-based Targus Inc. developed of a new security system for IBM ThinkPad notebook users. The Defcon PC card fingerprint authenticator, for example, features a retractable fingerprint sensor that authenticates designated users.

Indeed, the Think campaign is aggressive in that it involves new branding to support the strategy, as well as a host of new products and technologies, said Michelle Warren, analyst with Evans Research Corp.

“”They are defining their strategy with the rebranding of the product and initiatives. They are pulling everything together to present one unified image to the corporate world,”” she said. “”The ThinkPad brand is extremely good, extremely popular. It’s well known and has a good feel to it, a high acceptance rate, so for IBM to build upon that is a smart move.””

Warren said the program shows a commitment to resellers and offers fresh opportunities. “”For an upfront fee (in terms of training and certification) resellers can become partners in terms of offering consulting services,”” she said. “”It’s a type of, ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine.'””

Wttewaall agreed, adding resellers can take part in the game in terms of helping customers better manage their environments.

“”As we look at some of these software ThinkVantage Technologies, there’s an opportunity for partners to go help the customers understand what’s out there, and what’s right for their environment because not all of those technologies are going to fit every single customer. Some customers are not interested in image management, but might be interested in things like security.””

The Think strategy comes on the heels of IBM’s e-business on demand agenda, announced on Oct. 30, which offers customers computing as an always-on utility. “”It’s really taking a new look at the IT environment in an intuitive nature,”” said Wttewaall. “”As you need more resources, as you need more horsepower, you can actually flick a switch and have it delivered to you.””

Similarly, the Think campaign aligns with the on-demand strategy, Wttewaall explains. “”The PC is a key pillar to the success of on-demand for IBM. If you think of how customers interface into the corporation, into the heart and soul of the corporation . . . it’s all done through the personal computer.”” He says the PC is the lifeblood of the on-demand strategy because it’s the portal into the business.

Partners will have a chance to enroll in Think training and certification courses in the new year, he said, indicating the exact details and cost of the programs are still in the works. Key training areas for resellers will include wireless, security, deployment and image management.

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