As Big Blue celebrates its tenth anniversary with the ThinkPad brand, the company unveiled a PC strategy that takes aim at helping customers address common business issues like managing complex IT environments and tracking business assets – all in a more intuitive manner.

Issues surrounding

security, wireless computing, reduced budgets, improving up-time and managing the costs of deploying and migrating systems are other common challenges that often perplex customers and partners – and a key reason for the rollout of the campaign, says Harry Wttewaall, national ThinkPad specialist, IBM Canada Ltd. “The idea is not so much to focus on the technology, but to focus on the business issues.”

Dubbed Think, the latest strategy comes on the heels of the 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,” says Wttewaall at a downtown Toronto briefing. “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.

He says the go-to-market Think strategy involves consolidating the 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, which is a suite of software tools that are based on autonomic computing: PCs that are designed to offer self-healing, self-managing, self-optimizing and self-protecting 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,” he says, comparing the technology to how a human body can intricately and intuitively adjust to any physical situation.

ThinkVantage Technologies includes, among other things: IBM RapidRestore, a software tool that can restore previously saved data and applications after a software failure; and ImageUltra Builder, a toolkit for IT departments that helps curb the number of software images they support. Also part of the package, expect to see ThinkCentre desktop PCs (formerly the NetVista brand), a new line of ThinkVision displays, Think accessories and ThinkServices offerings all coming to market 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 mix of autonomic computing and biometrics is another hot area IBM is pursuing in terms of research and technology, Wttewaall adds. In March, 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. Warren says the program shows a commitment to resellers and offers nifty benefits to them in terms of consulting opportunities. “For an upfront fee (in terms of training and certification) resellers can become partners in terms of offering consulting services.” A type of “I scratch your back, you scratch mine,” she adds. Wttewaall agrees, saying 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.” Partners will have a chance to enroll in training and certification courses in the new year, he says, 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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