When Lenovo acquired IBM’s ThinkPad line of PCs in 2005, many ThinkPad loyalists were worried that the ThinkPad quality would suffer or be compromised as a result. Hence, it was important to David Hill, VP of Think Design, and his team to make a ThinkPad better than IBM could.
Codenamed “Kodachi” after the sleek and compact Japanese samurai sword of the same name, the ThinkPad X300 became “one of the best ThinkPads ever” and even appeared as a cover story for the BusinessWeek magazine.
“It truly was, I believe, a ThinkPad better than IBM had made,” David recalled recently.
ThinkPad laptops, which debuted in 1992, recently celebrated the milestone of shipping 100 million units worldwide. In just twenty over years, the black-clad laptop family has quickly established itself as an industry icon, with loyal fans that are passionate about each generation of ThinkPad products. In fact, the 100 millionth ThinkPad has been nicknamed as Eve, who will be tweeting throughout the year on her own unique Twitter handle, @thinkeve.
To celebrate the milestone, we recently hosted a Google+ hangout to catch up with our panel of ThinkPad experts – including David, Luis Hernandez, VP and GM of ThinkPad, Dilip Bhatia, VP of PC Marketing, Kevin Beck, Senior Competitive Analyst and Jerry Paradise, Executive Director of ThinkPad Product Marketing – to take a look back at ThinkPad’s journey, celebrate its achievements and discuss its future.
“This is a huge milestone both internally for Lenovo, as well as externally for the industry,” said Dilip. “It’s really the gold standard of business computing in the industry.”
From Mount Everest to space stations, ThinkPad has been the laptop of choice for customers who demand a laptop that can work anytime and anywhere. It is also common to hear great everyday ThinkPad stories, such as a lady who accidentally ran her ThinkPad over with her car, but could still get it to work.
Did you know? Once a customer made a sales rep stand on their laptops and only our sales rep did so with confidence. FTW! #LenovoHangouts— Lenovo Live (@lenovolive) February 10, 2015
These stories are a testament of the ThinkPad's utilitarian design. The purposeful design reinforces the idea of durability when it combines both utilitarian and functionality.
David also shared how he tries to create a synergy between both form and function when it comes to design. When tradeoffs are necessary, he chooses functionality over pure aesthetics.
He said, “There are some other companies that go all pure aesthetics, but I don’t think they have the keyboard quality, or some of the user interaction superiority that we have.”
Despite reaching the 100 millionth milestone, the design team strives to continue honing the ThinkPad to be better by connecting design, technology and people. Originally designed by German industrial designer Richard Sapper, the key to ThinkPad’s success lies in its consistency.
“People have an emotional connection with the brand because we’re consistent about the way we design, the features that we put out and the pain points that we aim to solve,” says Jerry.
TURNING PAIN POINTS INTO SOLUTIONS
Through the years, solving customers’ pain points has been the ThinkPad team’s main focus. Each year, the ThinkPad team speaks to hundreds of customers to receive their feedback and understand what is important to them, even to the point of visiting their homes to learn how they interact with these devices.
“To me, (customer engagement) is really our secret sauce,” says Dilip.
Hitting these pain points has proven to be successful with ThinkPad having over 1.8 million fans in China alone. In fact, this has also led to Lenovo being the No. 1 maker of PCs worldwide.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR THINKPAD?
As ThinkPad focuses on the human side of the business individual, Dilip says that the team is on a quest to build the next generation of ThinkPad that will be “a device that knows, understands and recognizes the user.”
In fact, the team has already set their sights on the next ThinkPad milestone. Without giving anything away, the Think team teasingly dropped hints on what the future ThinkPad will look like.
“It will be black, with a little red dot in the middle. Oh, and a great keyboard.”
For more personal stories and ThinkPad discussion, watch the full video below.