TORONTO – IBM Corp. Tuesday unveiled new notebook and desktop personal computers featuring the wireless and security features the company said its customers have been asking for.

Harry Wttewaall, IBM Canada’s Thinkpad brand national sales manager, said wireless and security were the top two concerns when IBM met with its 50 largest customers in August in Vancouver.

The four new ThinkPad and three new NetVista PCs feature IBM’s Embedded Security Subsystem, composed of an embedded security chip and the company’s Client Security Software 2.0. Based on public key infrastructure (PKI), the chip secures data and identity through encryption keys. These activities happen within the chip rather than in the main memory, making the embedded subsystem more secure than software-only solutions, according to IBM.

The prevalence of viruses, the ongoing threat of hackers, and theft of notebooks, passwords and client data have combined to drive security to the top of the business agenda, IBM said. And Peter Sturm, IBM Canada’s national sales manager for the Netvista desktops, said security has taken on added significance recently, referencing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

“Security is more and more important with what’s going on in the world,” he said.

To meet the wireless demands of its customers, IBM has integrated 802.11b technology in all of its ThinkPad notebooks, including the X, T, R and A series computers released Tuesday. The A30 (which starts at $2,999) is also IBM’s first attempt at offering not only 802.11b, but also Bluetooth, Ethernet and modem functionality in one notebook. The notebooks vary in size, power and price – from $1,999 to $5,199 and beyond.

“This isn’t about ‘Which is best,'” Wttewaall said. “This is about how you use mobile technology.”

For example, he said, the A series is big on functionality but is not as mobile as the X series.

IBM’s product launches were not limited to PCs. The company also introduced the T560 flat panel monitor, which can be adjusted for landscape or portrait views and can be tilted up to 145 degrees backwards. In the services and software arena, IBM offered up PCImageUltra, a suite it said that can filter all the PC images from an enterprise network into one “super image,” reducing IT costs by US$100 per system per year.

In a Tuesday morning conference call, Jon Judge, general manager of IBM’s personal computing division, said the company’s product launches show IBM and its competitors look at the market in different ways.

“Our position in the PC market is very clear versus our competitors,” Judge said. “On one end are vendors that want to commoditize the PC. Their focus is on supplying raw materials at the lowest price. On the other end is IBM, delivering complete IT solutions to advance e-business.”

In Toronto, both Wttewaall and Sturm played down any that suggestion that IBM’s full-service approach might not suited to an economic downturn.

While introducing the M, A and X series NetVista desktops, Sturm stressed the importance of commitment to innovation.

“IBM is a technology company,” Sturm said. “We had more product patents last year than our eight competitors combined. (IBM has an) R&D budget of $3 billion to $4 billion. Take that to the bank.”

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