As many of you will know if you follow me on Twitter, I am a huge fan of e-ink displays and technology. There are huge savings in terms of battery life running these panels and their readability in intense sunlight is well known. At CES 2023, Lenovo showcased two devices sporting the technology. This is exciting as there is a hope that this will drive the cost of e-ink technology down by increasing the opportunity for its adoption.

ThinkBook Plus Twist

The ThinkBook Plus Twist brings back the classic twist and fold style hinge that debuted back on the ThinkPad X41t which you can learn more about the history and the device in my video.

The device sports respectable specifications in its own right and the design reminds me of a mix between the ThinkBook line, the ThinkPad Z13 and the X41t. One item of course that separates the ThinkBook Plus Twist from the rest is of course the colour e-ink display on the back of the lid. This will potentially be a great solution for those that want to take notes on the go and have a solid tablet and laptop experience all wrapped into one.

The colour e-ink display is on the back of the lid of the ThinkBook Plus Twist.

The display is 12 inches can last several months on a single charge and features a 12Hz refresh rate and touch glass surface. The ThinkBook Plus Twist will be priced at $1649 and is expected to be available starting June 2023. For detailed specifications, see the chart below. Some might worry though about having a screen on each side of the lid when it comes to storage and transportation so fingers crossed it is built with durability in mind.

ThinkBook Plus Twist
Performance Processors Up to 13th Gen Intel Core Processors
OS Windows 11
Memory Up to 16GB LPDDR5X
Storage Up to 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
Graphics Intel Integrated Graphics
Displays 13.3-inch 2.8K OLED with touch glass and pen support, 400nits, 60Hz, 100% DCI-P3, Dolby Vision support 12-inch front-lit Color e-Ink Touch display with pen support
Audio Lenovo sound with dual speakers and dual-array microphones, Dolby Atmos® support
Camera FHD RGB camera with shutter
Battery 56Whr
Physical Security Smart Power-on Fingerprint Reader Camera Shutter
Connectivity Ports 2 x Intel® Thunderbolt™ 4 USB-C ports
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
Wireless WLAN Intel Wi-Fi 6E 802.11 AX (2×2)
Bluetooth® 5.1

Lenovo Smart Paper

The Lenovo Smart Paper is the device I’m the most interested in between the two at the moment. There are several solutions for taking notes on an e-ink device but some are cost-prohibitive and rely too heavily on subscription services.

It comes equipped with a 10.3″ E-Ink screen that is dual-color and has an auto-adjustable front light. Lenovo also claims a great feeling while writing with a stylus that supports 4,096 levels of pressure, tilt and more for a robust writing and sketching experience.

The video above features the device in a few different settings but you get the impression that education is one of the sectors that they hope the device will catch on. Cloud storage is possible as well but exists behind a subscription paywall. Hopefully, it is more affordable than the competition.

Currently, the cost of the Lenovo Smart Paper is stated to be $400 USD and the subscription service is not known. That potentially puts it at the premium end of these note-taking devices but if the subscription service isn’t essential like it is for some of the competition, then paying more for the hardware would be acceptable. Speaking about the hardware, it does rather well in that department. For detailed specifications, see the chart below.

Lenovo Smart Paper
Processor(s) RockChip RK3566
4x 1.8 GHz
Operating System Android AOSP 11.0
Memory 4GB+64GB
Display 10.3” E-Ink Display, 1872 x 1404 resolution, 227ppi
Front light Dual Color Front Light
24 Brightness Levels (automatic screen adjustment)
24 Adjustable Temperature Tones
Microphone Dual Mic
Sensor Accelerometer (G) Sensor, Ambient L-sensor, Hall Sensor
Battery 3550mAh (Typ.)
Reading Time: 8500 pages in one charge
Note Taking Time: Write 170 pages of notes in one charge
Dimensions 195mm x 226mm x 5.5mm
Weight ~408g (~0.9 lbs.)
Colors Storm Grey
Ports USB Type-C 2.0
Wireless Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 5.2 support BLE
Software

Email
Calendar
Clock
Calculator
ebooks.com app

Compatible Accessories

Lenovo Smart Paper pen
Lenovo Smart Paper folio case

Looking ahead

There are a growing number of solutions for those seeking e-ink, note-taking capable devices and that is a good thing. The more choices, the better for the consumer. The challenge we have right now is that many common cloud or software packages do not natively support e-ink content creation which means that you need to invest in one of the existing platforms to produce, store and access your content. Eventually, it would be nice to see some common or even open-source software that can run and load notes between all of these devices. That way, you might not find yourself artificially locked into one particular platform or subscription. Regardless of all this, having two more choices to pick from offered by Lenovo, a well-established company, follows others and hopefully adds additional legitimacy and demand of these devices.

Foldables and Dual Screens

CES 2023 saw the introduction of the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i which has got a lot of people talking. There is clear DNA being shared between it and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold 16 Gen 1. In fact, one of the patents that I thought would end up belonging to the Fold line-up actually appears to belong to the Yoga Book. Regardless, if you are making the choice between these two machines, you are likely in a niche bracket with some unique demands for your computing needs.

A patent that I found while digging around the archives as I was researching the X1 Fold 16 Gen 1 teaser trailer.

While both devices have a similar form factor initially there are a lot of differences between the two that make choosing between them relatively easy. For example, both have keyboards and pens and can be used without them. Both have a stand to help utilize them in a variety of configurations.

However, the keyboard accessory for the Yoga Book does not have a TrackPad or physical mouse input of any kind, meaning you are going to have to rely on the touch interface, pen or virtual TrackPad that appears on the bottom half of the screen and that might take some getting used to for many. One thing to note is it would appear the Yoga Book comes with all of the accessories in the box whereas the X1 Fold may ship with a version without the keyboard and pen. The Yoga Book also is designed to have its own unique style which will be appreciated by some, but not everyone. I suppose the problem with picking a colour that isn’t black is it doesn’t please everyone. We currently do not know if other colours will be available. 

The Yoga Book in its various configurations with and without its accessories.

Specifications Compared

If you are curious, you can see the specifications of both devices below compared where relevant. Some notable pieces are the Yoga shipping with 13th Gen CPUs versus the X1 Fold 16 Gen 1 currently shipping with 12th Gen CPUs. The Yoga also sports a larger battery but the reported battery life is actually similar to the X1 Fold with its dual battery system when both screens are in use.

Yoga Book 9i  ThinkPad X1 Fold 16 Gen 1
Processor(s) 13th Gen Intel Core i7-U15 Up to Intel vPro with 12th Gen Intel® Core™ U9 i5 and i7 Processors
Operating System Windows 11 Home
Windows 11 Pro
Up to Windows 11 Pro
Graphics Intel Iris® Xe Intel® Iris® Xe 
Memory LPDDR5X 16G Up to 32GB LPDDR5
Storage PCle SSD Gen4: 512G/1T Up to 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
Display 13.3” 2.8K, 400 nits, OLED/DCI-P3 100%, 60Hz, 16:10

4-side narrow bezel (91% AAR) HDR, PureSight, Dolby Vision

16.3-inch (2024×2560) foldable OLED 600nit HDR/400nit SDR, DCI-P3 100%,

Dolby Vision, On-cell Touch with Pen support

16.3-inch when open / 12-inch when folded

Audio 2 x 2W

2 x 1W

Bowers & Wilkins speakers, Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos 3-speaker system (2 speakers work at any one time)

Dolby Voice enabled – 4x microphones (2x mics work at any one time)

Camera FHD IR+RGB (5M USB) Webcam with Privacy Shutter 5MP RGB+IR with Intel VSC option
Battery 80WHr 48Whr (optional additional 16 Whr based on configuration)65W AC Rapid Charge
Dimensions

(mm) 299.1 x 203.9 x 15.95

(inches) 11.78 x 8.03 x 0.63

Unfolded: 276.1 x 345.7 x 8.6mm (10.87in x 13.6in x 0.34in)

Folded: 176.4 x 276.2 x 17.4mm (6.9in x 10.87 x 0.68in)

Weight 1.38kg System: 1.28kg / 2.82 lbsSystem with Keyboard and stand: 1.9kg / 4.19lbs
Hinge 360° 180°
Colours Tidal Teal Black
Ports 3 x USB Type-C (all full function and Thunderbolt™4.0)

2 x Intel Thunderbolt 4

1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2

Nano-SIM card tray

Wireless Wi-Fi 6E

HW Support Bluetooth 5.2 OS Just support Bluetooth 5.1

Wi-Fi 6E 802.11 AX (2×2)

Optional 5G Sub 6 (LTE supported) Bluetooth® 5.2

Cost

The Yoga Book 9i (13”, 8) will start at $2,099.99 and is expected to be available starting June 2023.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold 16 Gen 1 was expected to be available from Q4 starting at $2,499. Whether this price is still accurate, we will need to wait until the launch window and configurations are confirmed.

Choosing

Ultimately, the device you choose will depend on a few simple choices.

  1. Do you trust the Foldable OLED screen on the X1 Fold 16 Gen 1? If not, the point goes to Yoga Book with two physical screens.
  2. Do you prefer 4:3 16″ or 13.3″ 16:10? If you prefer 4:3, then the point goes to X1 Fold 16.
  3. Do you want a TrackPoint on your keyboard? I know I would. If so, point to the X1 Fold 16.
  4. Do you want a larger battery and potentially more battery life in some situations? If so, point to the Yoga Book.
  5. Do you need 5G connectivity? Then the X1 Fold 16 takes it.
  6. Do you need more than 16GB of RAM? Then the X1 Fold 16 will win that too.
  7. Want to spend less money? Then the Yoga Book wins points in that category from what we know right now.
  8. Do you need vPro? Think about the X1 Fold 16 Gen 1 then.
  9. Black? ThinkPad, Blue? Yoga Book.

Some things that are likely not going to be factored in your decision as the specifications are more or less the same are:

  • Wireless and Bluetooth configurations.
  • Ports (The Yoga Book has one more Thunderbolt 4 port, but realistically, it won’t be a deal breaker for most.)
  • Weight, dimensions. (The colour and looks WILL matter though.)
  • Camera setup (The specs are the same, the Yoga Book sports a privacy shutter.)
  • Speakers
  • Storage
  • Integrated Graphics
  • CPU (It is a bit too early to say how these two will compare in real-world use.)
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold 16 Gen 1 with TrackPoint Keyboard.

Personally, for me, I think the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold 16 Gen 1 takes it but that is because I really enjoy my ThinkPad experience, TrackPoint and all as well as the aesthetic that the design team has come up with to make the X1 Fold look like a really nice journal. That to me is right at home. My gut also says the ThinkPad will be more durable than the Yoga Book but the proof will be in the real-world experience of those that buy them. The other specifications are nice too but for me, sight unseen compared to the Yoga Book, that sleek black wins me over more than the crisp blue. However, I do realize that the slim and sleek nature of the Yoga Book is going to win many people over and rightfully so. Perhaps the Yoga Book 9i is designed to be more accessible X1 Fold 16 for everyone, but that will again be determined by those people that buy them.

Overall, it is great to have the choice between these two devices and I think Lenovo is trying to show this market they are trying to create is for everyone, not just business customers. Time will tell if people are ready for this emerging form factor. Feel free to let me know which machine you prefer wherever you saw this article posted and let’s have a conversation.

2022 has been a very busy year for the channel with nearly 100 videos published. This year saw the beginning of many new projects, some that I have yet to announce and the continuation and expansion of others. To help celebrate, here are my Top Picks for each month of 2022.

January 2022

The year started strong and it was a tough race between an interview I did with David Hill regarding the TrackPoint cap and the ThinkMods NVMe to Express Card Adapter. Since it is my list, I refuse to choose and give you both of those fantastic videos.

February 2022

February saw the one-year anniversary of my Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano ownership which was a milestone to be sure. SaotoTech did steal the show a bit with their 3D-printed TrackPoint caps. See the video below to learn more about how to get a modern version of a classic TrackPoint cap.

March 2022

This month was especially busy with lots of laptops and Think Design Stories. My favourite has to be David Hill’s story about the Hardened ThinkPad Concept. Special thanks to Brian Leonard for the best photos that exist of this important concept.

April 2022

I finally looked at the IBM ThinkPad 600 which was a very important model for the ThinkPad lineup as it laid the groundwork for the T series that would shortly follow. Lots of design choices that are still with the ThinkPad brand started with this model. Special thanks to Tommy for getting this model to me.

May 2022

This was a quieter month in terms of easily stand-out machines but it did see me tear down the ThinkPad E580 which went to show that good value still exists in series outside the T series.

June 2022

June soldiered on and several machines came and went but one that couldn’t quite go fast enough is one of the least repairable laptops ever made, the Surface Laptop 2. It is impossible to over this device without destroying several components.

July 2022

July was insane with 17 videos released. Two of my favourites from this time were my review of the Keychron K8 and Q0 keyboard and number pad. I did particularly enjoy the IBM ThinkPad A20m video as it gave me the chance to highlight Rob Herman’s work again as I finally got the chance to look at the first A Series on the channel.

August  2022

This was easily the quietest month of the year since I was already hard at work on my celebratory planning for ThinkPad 30th’s birthday. A lot of work was going on behind the scene so the fewest videos were produced during this time. I did manage to squeeze in a few videos and the Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 1 was one of the good ones..

September 2022

September began the rolling release of the videos that celebrated ThinkPad’s 30th anniversary. I collaborated with not only David Hill, but Tom Hardy who shared some amazing stories about their time with ThinkPad and Design. Here are some of the many videos that were produced:

October 2022

With the ThinkPad 30’s celebrations in full swing, there was a lot to talk about. I strongly recommend you check out the playlist of Interviews for all the goodies that were happening at that time.

November 2022

This year seemed to have been dominated by ThinkPads. November saw the examination of the X390 which was the last three-digit X model before they went to the X13 variants. It is a strange evolution that I got the pleasure of unpacking for the channel.

December 2022

December and much of November were very busy months for me, unfortunately not channel related so there were many projects that I didn’t get started, or finished. I hope to start the next year strong and wanted to get two wonderful donations filmed. The Lenovo ThinkPad X61s and the Lenovo ThinkPad T430u. Thanks to Justin and Kemish for making that possible.

Looking Ahead

Looking into 2023 I feel like there is much left undone. I’ve been generously provided several donations I still need to film. I have several collaborations in the works that need to be continued that ideally, would be further along and I am definitely the slow factor. As I mentioned earlier in the article, things got busy outside of the channel and I never was able to claw that time back.

I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunities that are new that have also come my way that I cannot wait to share them with everyone. All of it, every success the channel has had this year and years previously has been a direct result of your kindness and support of what I do. Laptop Retrospective remains a wonderful hobby that I’m excited to work on every time I sit down to write notes for a video or edit together the next episode. I hope you will join me in the year ahead, we have so much to explore together.

ThinkPad enthusiasts will likely know that at the very beginning of the history of ThinkPad, black was not the only colour used for these iconic machines. As hard as it might be to believe there do exist Beige/Pebble Gray ThinkPads, it is a strange sight to behold. You can tell by looking at it that the hard work and consideration that Richard Sapper and Kazuhiko Yamazaki put into the design is impacted when the machine isn’t the colour it was designed to be. The Pebble Gray colour choice was available on several models, not just the 700C.

According to the IBM Mobile Systems Hardware Maintenance Manual Volume 2: ThinkPad Computers April 1995the following models had “gray” part options that were designated “For Germany.” They are listed below:

  • IBM ThinkPad 700 and 700C
  • IBM ThinkPad 720 and 720C
  • IBM ThinkPad 750, 750P, 750Cs, 750Ce
  • IBM ThinkPad Dock I
  • IBM ThinkPad 300 Monochrome (See PSREF below)

It is worth noting that the different colour parts are shared between some models. For example, the 700 and 720 shares the same housing components.

So where and why do these machines exist? Let me try and offer as complete of an answer as I can using the information I have collected, some of it recently.

The “Why?” question was partially answered by Arimasa Naitoh during the 20th Anniversary of ThinkPad.

The ThinkPad models in the 1990’s had documentation stating that they are to be made in black cases, in accordance with Richard Sapper’s guidelines set in his collaboration with the Boca Raton Team. Why were there variations from this, where, for instance, the 700/ C, 720C and 300 are in grey?

Naitoh-San: In the 1990’s, we had the retail models of ThinkPad painted in grey to be distinguished from the original enterprise models.

Happy 20th birthday, ThinkPad! Lenovo Forums Post

Official IBM documentation of the Beige/Pebble Gray ThinkPad is spotty at best. In the Personal Systems Reference IBM ThinkPad Notebooks 1992 to 2001 – withdrawn January 2001 – Version 214, the only model not listed as being offered in black was the ThinkPad 300 monochrome model and it was listed as “Charcoal grey” (page 4) as opposed to black. We know from the Hardware Maintenance Manuals from above that there was a more comprehensive offering of ThinkPad in Beige/Gray. This is likely to do with the markets they were sold—more on that in just a moment.

To answer the “Where?” part of the question, we can look at the keyboards and see that nearly all of the photographed examples have one item in common and that is a QWERTZ keyboard layout. I found one example sporting a French European keyboard layout. Both of these keyboard layouts are exclusive to Western/Central Europe and the QWERTZ layout is often simply referred to as the German keyboard layout. Now, this raises an interesting and somewhat plausible connection to the interview I did with Tom Hardy where he discusses the challenges he had with German DIN standards and IBM Germany at the time. See the video below for that whole story.

It is impossible to know how many of these machines were produced but it is highly likely the German DIN standards of the time had an impact on their creation. If Naitoh is correct in the above statement, where the retail models were designated that colour, that seems counter to the requirements of the German standards which would require business/enterprise machines to be beige or gray, not the other way around. If IBM Germany was initially unwilling to pay for the additional colour as Tom Hardy stated, it leaves a bit of a mystery of who was bankrolling the painting change and for what market.

Here is a possibility of how all this comes together by working under the assumption that all the information we have is accurate.

Firstly, as Tom Hardy stated in the interview, the section of the German DIN standards that did not allow computers to be black was revoked sometime after the release of the ThinkPad 700C, this would mean that black could be used for Enterprise machines as Naitoh states in the interview. If the DIN standard was no longer required however then why spend the money to create the gray models for a German market that would no longer require them?

Changing standards takes time and I suspect between Tom Hardy leaving IBM and German businesses slowly moving away from the DIN Standard took just over a year. David Hill also mentioned that recalled some pushback against changing the standards to allow for black machines. If the last ThinkPad that was offered in gray was made in November of 1993 (began manufacture), the standard likely would have been revoked around that time. Some German businesses would be able/willing to overlook the standards and buy the black machine regardless, however, others might have not had that flexibility and the pebble gray was brought in to meet their needs. Perhaps IBM Germany just passed on the cost in the price of the machine. 

After the product lifecycle was complete, it wouldn’t need to offer the gray/beige machines afterwards, standardizing the line and reducing manufacturing costs. Perhaps any remaining inventory was sold off as retail units as Naitoh stated in the interview above. What we can say for certain is, after 1994, no ThinkPads were made in the pebble gray/beige colour.

David Hill also stated in the book “ThinkPad: A Different Shade of Blue” there were other challenges to making ThinkPad the classic black we know today:

“There were a lot of barriers to getting the original IBM ThinkPad design approved. Many were opposed to using black as the color of the notebook. At the time, black was very radical in personal computing, even though it was accepted in earlier computer products. If you went back and looked at the IBM System 360 mainframe from the 1960s, it was primarily black. It was in the computer room behind glass windows and was supposed to look outstanding. The black color allowed clients to show off their prize possession to visitors.

“But personal computers weren’t black at the time. That’s because we wanted to make PCs fit naturally into the office so they wouldn’t be noticed. So, we made all of them in pearl white, a sort of cream color that no one would notice. But, then along comes the ThinkPad, and we wanted to make a bold statement that was just the opposite. We wanted everyone to notice it, so we adopted black. A lot of people objected to our using black as the color of ThinkPad, thinking it wasn’t like ‘IBM.’ Eventually everyone saw it as something that would really differentiate IBM.

-“ThinkPad: A Different Shade of Blue” by Deborah A. Dell and J. Gerery  Purdy, Ph.D.

What do you think about these ThinkPads? Have you ever seen one in person? Let me know by @ me on Twitter. As always, if any new information is acquired, I will update this article accordingly.

The ThinkPad with two screens might live again in the discovery of a new patent application for a dual-screen laptop.

The ThinkPad W700DS and W701DS are insane systems to behold for two reasons:

  1. They are one of the largest, working production ThinkPads out there.
  2. They have a pull-out screen for extra productivity. You can see it demonstrated below.

These have captivated people and collectors for ages and now, it looks like Lenovo might be thinking about making another one.

I was diving into the patent database again and came across a new patent filed on September 27, 2022 with these drawings:

That patent also directly references the Lenovo ThinkPad W700, W700ds, W701 and 701ds Hardware Maintenance Manual under “Other Publications” strengthening the connection. But they aren’t stopping at just remaking the classic, it looks like they have plans on improving it as well.

The patent details this new system as rather than having a second screen, it is in fact a tablet computer. This isn’t too surprising looking at what Lenovo has been doing with their ThinkBook line and integrating a tablet into the palm rest. This, however, makes a lot more sense to me. The tablet can be used as an additional screen like the W700ds and W701ds but it can also possibly be removed and potentially reoriented or used in a wireless mode. It can be a bit tricky to tell what exactly the final product will look like from patents as they try and cover variations within the claims. This secondary screen or tablet also is mentioned to have its own web camera that would be activated once the secondary display is removed a certain distance from the housing.

It also appears from the description that it might be able to detect the position of the secondary screen/tablet and only use the exposed screen real-estate. Figures 7 through 15 illustrate the methodology of several screen states and their effect on how the secondary screen would behave.

Now which model this could ship on is anyone’s guess right now. Like many patented ideas, it might never come to pass. If I had to make a guess though, this seems like it would be at home on a workstation-class machine like a P-series. Time will tell if it makes it to production.

To see the complete patent, please click the link below and feel free to @ me on Twitter to let me know what you think about this new patent. If I learn anything new, I will update this article accordingly with new information or corrections.

US-11455015-B2_I

A Sticker

If you are like me, you have spent some time looking through Hardware Maintenance Manuals for ThinkPads. It was actually while looking at the HMM for the T41 to disassemble and remove the WLAN card that I noted some interesting references to LG-IBM branding. Specifically, stickers were to be placed over any replacement parts bearing the ThinkPad branding for the South Korean market.

One of many references to the LG-IBM models in the T40 HMM.
LG-IBM R40.
Photo generously provided by Hidde J.

A friend and avid ThinkPad collector Tasurinchi shared an article with me that mentioned the breakup of the deal. This was clearly the tip of the iceberg of an interesting story. We both knew about the Acer partnership where Acer was contracted out to build several laptops under the ThinkPad brand. However, it would appear that the ThinkPad R40 and R40e (pictured above) were built in South Korea in LG owned factories. The sticker located on the bottom of my R40 confirms this (Made in Korea) and the schematics as discovered by Thinkpads.com forum user Screamer found the manufacturers were “LG Gryphon” and “LG D3 Entry” respectively for these two machines.

Bottom label showcasing the LG-IBM branding.
Photo generously provided by Hidde J.

So where did it all begin?

A Partnership

In 1996, IBM entered into a partnership with LG to break into the Korean market. The arrangement created LG-IBM and saw IBM owning 51% of the company controlling the manufacturing and marketing of PCs while LG’s 49% was focused on other consumer electronics. This allowed IBM to break into the market, shipping their PC solutions and it gave LG an excellent opportunity to learn everything it could from IBM.

The LG-IBM PC LKB 0107 was seen at a thrift store. Photo by moghismv (https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/jegu7j/anybody_know_how_much_this_keyboard_is_worth_lg/)
Top case of R40.
Photo generously provided by Hidde J.
The top case of an i-Series ThinkPad with the LG-IBM sticker. From Kbench.com

 

A Scandal

In 2004 the announcement came that the two companies would be splitting off, each essentially retaining their own rights to their respective properties. IBM would retain their rights to all of their trademarked properties like ThinkPad and LG would continue developing their own line of laptops called the Xnote. Interestingly enough, both IBM, LG-IBM and LG were targets of a bribery scandal that both parties claimed was unrelated to the announcement to split.

The two companies said the separation was unrelated to the indictments early this year of three officials of LG IBM and three from IBM’s Korea unit on charges of bribing government officials in order to win contracts to supply computer parts and services.

After the indictments were issued, IBM said that it had dismissed its three officials and that the three from LG IBM were no longer working there. The three former IBM Korea employees were convicted by a Seoul court in February, according to Reuters news agency. – Wall Street Journal September 15, 2004

The company was hit with a bribery scandal early this year. Former executives of IBM Korea have been jailed for bribing government clients and rigging bids, while officials of LG Electronics were fined. – Korea JoongAng Daily August 30, 2004

While these types of scandals weren’t unique to LG or IBM and weren’t likely directly related to the ending of the partnership, the details of these bribery scandals need to be read to be believed.

From 1998 to 2003, over $207,000 USD was paid in cash or gifts to officials by IBM-Korea and LG-IBM. These payments were delivered in large LG-IBM branded envelopes to shopping bags and exchanged in locations including but not limited to parking lots near the managers’ and officials’ places of work or home and on one occasion a parking lot of a local Japanese restaurant. All of these bribes were targeted at individuals making purchase decisions, ensuring that LG-IBM would win the contracts. These contracts were worth tens of millions of dollars leading to an “improper gift” of $9,546USD landing a contract valued at $1.3 million USD. IBM-China also had similar issues with bribery. For more details, see this document which outlines the details of these scandals. 

There is a more likely reason for the end of the partnership beyond these issues.

A Deal

During this time, IBM was in active talks with both Texas Pacific Group and Lenovo to sell off IBM’s PC division. Dell was also a contender for a brief amount of time. IBM CEO Samuel j. Palmisano the summer of 2004 was hammering out a complex deal with Yang Yuanqing (Lenovo) and it isn’t too hard to imagine that part of the preparations for negotiations would have involved complete ownership of control of all the markets IBM was present. This would be especially true for a purchasing company that was already established in that area. This would mean that LG-IBM would need to be renegotiated or simply cease to exist. It isn’t too hard to see which makes more sense to both parties to create a clean and tidy deal.

IBM would sell Lenovo PCs through its sales force and distribution network. IBM also would provide services for Lenovo PCs—and allow Lenovo to use the vaunted IBM brand name for five years. In turn, Lenovo, leveraging its connections with the government’s Chinese Academy of Sciences, would help IBM in the fast-growing China market. – The Race for Perfect: Inside the Quest to Design the Ultimate Portable Computer, Steve Hamm

An Ending

So overall the historic deal between IBM and LG seemed to be mutually beneficial to both parties. IBM gained access to another market (under a different brand) and LG gained access to IBM’s information and experience. When it came time for IBM to sell its PC Division though, it was clear that IBM would need to distance itself from IBM-Korea and LG-IBM as quickly as possible to ensure that the scandals and exclusive access to the South Korean market wouldn’t sour any potential deal with an interested party.

But what about the penalties for the previously mentioned scandals? Who had to take responsibility?

Ultimately that would fall to IBM. While they didn’t own several of the assets that would have been involved, it makes no sense for the new owners to be fined for the mistakes of the previous owners.

On March 18, 2011, without admitting or denying the SEC‘s allegations, IBM consented to the entry of a final judgment that permanently enjoins the company from violating the books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA. In addition, IBM consented to pay disgorgement of $5,300,000, $2,700,000 in prejudgment interest, and a $2,000,000 civil penalty.

Steps Taken by State Parties to Implement and Enforce the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in
International Business Transactions
AS OF JUNE 2011 WORKING GROUP ON BRIBERY MEETING

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

It would appear the LG and ThinkPad story is not over yet. Fast forward to the year 2021 and it seems that LG might have run afoul with Lenovo with LG’s ThinQ branding coming a bit too close to the well-established Think branding they inherited from IBM. To read the case details, including court documents and its status, follow this link. or you can head right to the source at the United States Trademark and Patent Office.

Lenovo has been promoting this short trailer over the last few days and many believe it points to the teasing of a new X1 Fold.

After taking a look at the trailer a few times and snooping around, here are some possible reasons to look forward to the new X1 Fold and some of the technology that could be included. Keep in mind these are all varying levels of speculation.

Not the same size

There is reason to believe that the device teased in the trailer might actually be 16″ in size as opposed to the original. A Reddit post several months ago details devices called 21ES and 21ET (ThinkPad X1 Fold 16 Gen 1) which implies the possibility of a larger size. This would allow for a full-size keyboard to be created and fit inside the device once it is folded if they are still going that route. The trailer also uses the words “next big thing” which could be a sly reference to the size of the device as well, but that is a reach.

The TrackPoint

The TrackPoint was a noticed absence from the original X1 Fold. I suspect that the keyboard was too thin or the screen durability having the TrackPoint next to it was a pain point. That or any working prototype was not a great experience. We do get an extreme close-up during the above video of a keyboard that does indeed feature a TrackPoint, but no wide shots hide its implementation.

A Butterfly Keyboard

There is a small chance, based on the patent filed a while back that this new device might have a butterfly-style keyboard along with the TrackPoint. The patent details that it was designed for a tablet device and would put an end to the problem of the Gen 1 having too small a keyboard. Maybe it will be part of a special 30th Anniversary edition? To learn more about that patent, see the article below. However, this isn’t likely needed if the 16″ rumour is true.

Jun
26

Will Butterflies fly again?

This article has been updated on 27 June 2021 to include new information. It appears last year Lenovo filed a new Butterfly-style keyboard patent and it was recently approved earlier this month by the US Patent Office. You can look it up on your own using the #11,029,723 and unsurprisingly it references John Karidis’ existing […]

A Screen that folds both ways

I went digging through the patent archives again and found US11294565 B2  (filed Aug 2020, date of patent Apr 5, 2022) which details a device with a folding screen bending backwards into a tent mode-like configuration. The only existing device that looks even remotely like this made by Lenovo is the X1 Fold. Could they have perfected the hinge and screen technology to the point where it can now flex back and forth? The still image from the trailer I used as the featured image for this article doesn’t appear to feature the folio style case that was integrated into the X1 Fold Gen 1 which might inhibit the integration of this feature.

No More Folio Case

It would appear given the one shot we get in the trailer of the back of the device, specifically the logo it showcases some kind of textured backing that is very close to the metal edge implying it is a thin coating. The ThinkPad and X1 logos seem to be made out of the same metal and are raised up from this surface.

The Rest

Based on the image we get at the end of the trailer, the following also seems to be possible

  • On the left-hand side, we see a possible cut-out to allow for easier removal of the keyboard.
  • If the device is larger, better cooling/CPUs and longer battery life due to more space to put a battery are possible. We also see mention of Intel vPro in the trailer which isn’t available on the lighter-weight CPUs generally speaking.
  • Thinner bezels overall.
  • The volume rocker (and power button?) on the top right-hand side
  • One USB-C port is on the bottom left. (Likely another one on the top?)
  • There is something strange going on at the very bottom of the device where it appears the image extends beyond the bezel, not sure what that might be about.

Do you think the announcement is about the new X1 Fold? Do you think these ideas or others might be included in its release? Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or the Contact page to share your ideas.

For those unfamiliar, Moore’s Law is an observation that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.

By Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie – https://ourworldindata.org/uploads/2020/11/Transistor-Count-over-time.png, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98219918

In 2005, Moore stated that this projection cannot be sustained indefinitely and in 2016 the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors moved away from this style of road mapping. Moore further said that the Law that he helped develop would likely end around 2025.

So what does this have to do with laptops and computers?

Simple. It shows a fundamental and unnecessary need to purchase a brand new machine based on CPU performance alone, at least for the majority of users. One thing that has been made clear is, that outside of certain chip requirements like TPM 2.0 for Windows 11, some laptops that are over 12 years old are still fully capable of doing the tasks that their owners require them to do. That of course is before you introduce Linux into the equation which further extends the usefulness of some older hardware.

Even if you do require Windows 11 and need a TPM 2.0 chip to ensure it is officially supported, you are still left with 5 generations of CPUs that are able to meet those requirements.

In recent years, one of the best things about CPU advancement has been power efficiency and the battery technology to support it. This is one of the reasons that laptops with 50Whr batteries can outlast their predecessors that had 99Whr batteries. But how much better are our CPUs for handling modern tasks? I would suggest outside of a very small group of people, the majority do not benefit directly and immediately from the incremental updates to chipsets that are currently taking place outside of video rendering technology (graphics cards) and even those advancements are likely debatable. We also have multiple cores now within a single CPU socket that, if the software is built to take advantage of, can lead to further performance gains but not usually at the scale we’d expect of two cores doing double what a single core would. That is a topic for another day.

Therefore it isn’t too much of a stretch of the imagination that buying a used computer or laptop is actually viable. This was further exemplified at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting chip shortages. Used laptops increased in value not only because the supply of parts to assemble new ones was depleted, but older laptops were still capable of fulfilling their required role for many users. Again, there will always be the exception of those that need one of the new features coming in the latest Intel or AMD chipset, but for people who need a reliable computer for email, coding, document production and other tasks that older CPUs are more than capable of handling, it makes these processes more accessible to a wider audience and potentially help individuals take their next steps. I’ve had the pleasure over the years to read many comments on my channel about people doing exactly this; buying, finding or being gifted a cheap laptop to do the work that they needed to do and move forward.

All this taken together, the final message to deliver is that the majority of people don’t NEED a newer computer, they might WANT a newer one though. This could be based on a real or imagined need that the new piece of technology solved, but making that choice in part is a privilege that consumers shouldn’t take lightly. I’ve been using my used ThinkPad X220 since 2018 around the house running Linux for a variety of different tasks and it continues to perform admirably. To see my journey of upgrades and mods, see the playlist below.

If you want to see how far your dollars can stretch entering the world of used, quality hardware, I suggest this fantastic ThinkPad Price Guide to get you started.

ThinkPad Price Guide V6.1

 

This post is a short accompanying piece to the recent video I released on the channel

In that video, David Hill shared with me the design concept that Richard Sapper put together to create a rugged or hardened ThinkPad. ThinkPads were already known for being more durable than the competition, but what if that was taken to the next level. Originally, when we were working on the video, there was only one photograph known to exist of the model that Sapper built that David posted on his Instagram years ago. No other images existed.

An AI upscaled version of the photo originally posted by David Hill.

Until now.

Thanks to David, we now have several images of the concept that Sapper built. Brian Leonard, the current VP of Design at Lenovo was kind enough to go into the archives and take some photographs of the model to help tell the story. They appeared in the video, but I have put them below for archival purposes.

The Hardened ThinkPad Concept, closed.
The Hardened ThinkPad Concept, left side.
The Hardened ThinkPad Concept, left side with port door open.
The Hardened ThinkPad Concept, right side with port door open.
The Hardened ThinkPad Concept, right side with port door open.

In a not at all surprising twist, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is getting another round of updates that should keep it the king of the pack in terms of ultraportable. Some  notable updates to this generation of X1 Carbon include:

  • Up to 12th generation Intel® Core™ i7 vPro® U and P Series processors, up to 14-core
  • Up to Windows 11 Pro, Linux Ubuntu, or Fedora
  • FHD Webcamera now standard in a new Communications Bar
  • Up to 32GB LPDDR5
  • Up to 2TB Gen 4 performance PCIe NVMe SSD
  • 57 Whr battery
  • Intel® Wi-Fi 6E (requires Windows 11)
  • Bluetooth® 5.2
  • NFC
  • New screen options, see below for details
A breakdown showing the new FHD webcamera setup. A much needed upgrade.

Ports include:

  • 2x Thunderbolt™ 4
  • 2x USB 3.2 Type-A Gen 1
  • 1x HDMI 2.0b
  • 1x Audio (Headphone and Microphone Combo Jack)
  • 1x Nano SIM
A new range of impressive screens are not available.

More screen options than you can shake a stick at listed below:

  • 14” WUXGA 16:10 (1920×1200) IPS LP AG
    (400nit, 100%sRGB, Eyesafe)
  • 14” WUXGA 16:10 (1920×1200) IPS LP AG Touch
    (400nit, 100%sRGB, Eyesafe)
  • 14” WUXGA 16:10 (1920×1200) IPS LP AG Touch with Privacy Guard
    (500nit, 100%sRGB, TUV ePrivacy Cert)
  • 14” 2.2K 16:10 (2240×1400) IPS AG
    (300nit, 100% sRGB)
  • 14” 2.8K 16:10 (2880×1800) OLED AGARAS
    (400nit, 100% DCI-P3, Eyesafe)
  • 14” WQUXGA 16:10 (3840×2400) IPS LP Glare
    (500nit, 100% DCI-P3, HDR400, Dolby® Vision™, Eyesafe)
  • 14” WQUXGA 16:10 (3840×2400) IPS LP AOFT Touch AGAR

Overall this appears to be a great machine and would likely give me pause if I were buying a new laptop today. If I had the choice between a ThinkPad X1 Carbon or an X1 Nano, I think I’d go with this now that it has the nicer display options.