Lenovo has sweetened its UK laptop launch with an offer of free 3G connectivity on a range of machines aimed at small businesses.
Lenovo is launching its slim X200 here, but gave more of a spotlight to the SL series, aimed at small businesses, which - along with other new Lenovo laptops - come with built in 3G at no extra cost, and with a free 30-deay trial of Vodafone's 3G service.
The companies would not describe the deal as a "subsidy", but it appears that both Vodafone and Lenovo are sharing the cost of the card, in the expectation of more business. The laptops will ship with a pre-installed Vodafone SIM installed, and the laptop's connection manager will be pre-set to activate it, when the user opts to start a 30-day free trial.
"It's a real free trial, with no commitment," said Alec Howard, head of PC connectivity at Vodafone. "The connection manager will ask for your name and email, but no bank details." Users will be prompted to take out a contract at the end of the free trial - prices are around £12 a month for broadband, with automatic roaming in Europe at £8.50 a day (and no, the free trial, does not include international roaming).
Opting for a different mobile operator could be a harder work - a matter of putting in a different SIM, and then downloading alternative connection manager software instead of the built-in software which only works with Vodafone (as we found in our X300 review).
The SL series of Thinkpads are aimed at small businesses, and have shiny lids, a major departure from the Thinkpad's normal matt black styling Lenovo. The shine was a very specific request form small busineses, who are more style-conscious, according to David McQuarrie, executive director of Lenovo's European notebook business.
Although the SL series is cheaper than the existing R series, it is still more business-oriented than the Lenovo 3000 line, which is not Thinkpad-branded, he said. Both the R and SL series do not include the vPro management and security technology, he said.
WiMax was notable by its absence in the Lenovo UK launch, although Intel was there to explain its place. "WiMax won't be a mandatory part of the Centrino 2 specification, because services are not available globally" explained Graham Palmer, director & country manager, Intel UK & Ireland, pointing out that Intel is still backing the Freedom4 trials in the UK.
Although this optional role theoretically puts WiMax on the same footing as 3G within Centrino, Lenovo was showing little enthusiasm at the launch, with spokesmen declining to give any dates or make any commitment to ship it, saying that WiMax would be launched as and when it is required in different territories. The company is, however, planning to add other wireless options, including Bluetooth right away and UWB in future.
Other vendors are bundling 3G with laptops, with Acer talking to operators for a future range of mini-laptops.