Design Product Development

  I mentioned in the T400s sneak peek video that we had tightened up the tolerances between the keys to improve the overall system appearance and reduce the likelyhood of crumbs, or other debris, from slipping into the keyboard scissor mechanisms. We did not do this at the expense of changing the key pitch or altering  the contoured portion of the key that you feel. It was of paramount importance that we did not change the typing feel with this enhancement. What we did was to increase the size of the skirt at the base of the key in order to make the gaps between the keys tighter. We also made the corner radii smaller for the same reason. The skirt is a technical term for the sidewall of the key that flares out towards the bottom of the key.  The name makes a lot of sense when you think about the key cap shape. The previous ThinkPad keyboards had a nominal key gap dimension of  .7mm. The T400s has a nominal gap of .4mm. A difference of .3mm may not sound like much but it makes a big  difference. Before moving forward with this change our Yamato engineering team did an extensive tolerance analysis and accelerated wear test to ensure we were on track with the change. We wanted to make certain the keys did not rub each other out of the box, or over time as the keyboard wears in. Yes, all keyboards wear in over time.  People usually don't notice it since it happens so...

Continue reading “A Tolerance for Crumbs”

  I thought it would be useful to follow up on the sneak peek blog I published earlier in the week  with more information . Now that the product has officially announced, I can share a lot more of the research methodology and creative thinking that drove the changes to the keyboard. The video is  just too short and a bit vague, by design, to  share all the details. After all it was a bit of a teaser. Much of  the footage ended up on the cutting room floor due to pre-announce concerns from legal and others. My team felt there was a great opportunity to take the ThinkPad keyboard design and user experience to the next level with the introduction of the T400s. It only made sense, this was to be the best T series ever made. Achieving such a goal was not easy, however,  it required a lot of hard work, creative thinking , and most importantly information about how people used their exisiting keyboards. We thought that taking an updated look at key frequency of use would be a good place to start in order to uncover innovation opportunity. Things do change over the years. Who would ever have predicted the increased use of the @ and tab keys prior to the internet. To gather this kind of critical information we solicited agreement from several dozen internal users to install a special keyboard tracker on their ThinkPad.  The...

Continue reading “ThinkPad T400s: Key to a Better Experience”

It's not often that the design of our ThinkVantage software gets specific mention in a product review. It seems that in general reviewers are far more intrigued with hardware than the included software. The latest version of our Access Connections for the Vista operating system changed that. It was singled out in a recent review of the W700. Chris Connolly at Hothardware.com wrote the review. I never would have guessed that Access Connections could challenge the W700 beast for attention. I was very glad to see the recognition for one of my favorite ThinkVantage Technologies and the hard work that went into the design. I use it everyday to make connecting easier. Here is a quote from the review: "Typically, OEM-created software to handle network connectivity is far below the quality level of Windows's native Vista Wi-Fi software suite, which means we usually disable the bundled connectivity software. Lenovo has done some really great stuff on this end, though. Through their "Access Connections" software, you can see in a visual manner which Wi-Fi hotspots are the closest and giving you the best signal, along with which ones are locked. It's an amazingly simple but useful way for connecting to Wi-Fi hot-spots."  Chris Connolloy Typically when I write about our offerings, I focus on what we have done, not how we got there. I thought why...

Continue reading “More Than Just a Pretty Face: Access Connections”

I've seen a few comments about the new X300 ThinkVantage button illumination. Some people like it, others don't. We added the illumination feature to help bring attention to the various software utilities that are quickly accessible by pressing the button. The light also helps people understand when to push the button during system start up to access the ThinkVantage pre-boot environment where you can recover important data. The subtle illumination also makes the button a bit more visible in  low light situations. It was not about blue light bling. That would be off-brand for ThinkPad design. If you don't like it, we have you covered. Push the ThinkVantage button, click on customize at the bottom of the menu, and select the tab called button light. This is where you can turn it off. You can also enable a MS mail checker feature that will blink the light when you have mail if you are so inclined. David Hill

Continue reading “X300 Blue Light Special”

Using a ThinkPad on an airplane is obviously a common occurence for anyone who owns one. Unfortunately, air travel and notebook computers don't always mix. Where do you put your computer bag? In the over-head or under the seat in front of you? What if the overhead is full and you have the bulkhead seat? Did I remember to turn off the wireless radio? Is that guy next to me trying to read my e mail? Is she going to pour that drink on my keyboard? My favorite is dealing with the annoying guy who always seems to be in the seat in front of me that insists on slamming his seat into full recline without a care in the world. I like to call this one "The Crusher". Somehow I have managed to avoid having my ThinkPad destroyed by one of these types, but just barely. You need to develop a sixth sense that allows you to anticipate the free-fall and instantly snatch your ThinkPad out of harms way. I recently sat next to a unfortunate who had his notebook helplessly pinned between the tray table and coat hook. I had no idea you could bend a notebook display that far. Several years ago I purchased two rows of coach class airplane seats to help us deal with this topic more effectively. The idea was that we could study the problem using actual seating conditions, rather than debating tray table dimensions and seating geometry. At the time I had no idea how hard it would be to acquire the seats or for that matter getting the spacing right. I certainly got some strange looks the...

Continue reading “Fasten Your Seatbelts, We’ll Be On The Ground Shortly”