Great news, ThinkPad fans: Your favorite laptops and portable PCs are about to get even better.
Well, not your ThinkPads. Instead, Lenovo has made three strategic decisions that will impact the future of this vaunted line of PCs in a very positive way. And those decisions nicely level a playing field that has been upset by HP, whose own premium PC lines now rival ThinkPad.
So, what have they done?
First, Lenovo has embraced Microsoft’s Signature PC program and will sell its own crapware-free PCs directly to customers. This makes more sense than you may realize, and while ThinkPad already offers something akin a Signature PC experience, it’s important to know that Lenovo has been onboard with Microsoft’s Clean PC efforts since the “Velocity” program for Windows 7. In other words, these guys have been partnering on Clean PC for about a decade already.
(But only on ThinkPad. As you may recall, Lenovo’s consumer PC products were once renowned for being crapware receptacles, a situation that was finally reversed in the wake of the Superfish debacle.)
Second, Lenovo is dropping its excellent but proprietary one-cable docking solution, called OneLink+, for … wait for it … USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. As I’ve written previously, this technology is the future, and Lenovo’s embrace of it is both pragmatic and smart. And it’s doing so everywhere, not just on its PCs, but also on its docks and displays. One cable to rule them all indeed.
Finally, Lenovo is also adopting Microsoft’s Precision Touchpad standard, which I’ve called on HP and all PC makers to implement. This is the ideal way to control this type of pointing device in Windows 10, and it’s only going to get better in the next major update to this OS. (My understanding is that Precision Touchpad support will one day become a requirement for the “Designed for Windows” logo, so Lenovo is moving quickly on this one.)
Looking back on 2016, Lenovo was neck-and-neck with HP for the title of best PC maker in my book—I’ve not published this yet, but I’ve awarded the two a tie—so these developments are very interesting. HP already offers Signature PC-like experiences on its premium PCs, but then so did ThinkPad. HP already adopted USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, so that, too, is a tie.
But now that Lenovo is embracing Precision Touchpad, things are starting to shift. ThinkPads already offer excellent—some might argue “superior” or “basically perfect”—typing and pointing experiences, and this really helps. That ThinkPads use lighter carbon fiber and hybrid alloy materials than HP’s aluminum designs could really put things over the top for many.
Point being, ThinkPad is fighting back, baby. It’s nice to see. And we’ll see a lot more at CES 2017 next week, when Lenovo formally unveils its new devices. Brad and I will both be there.