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Father of the ThinkPad

   

ADLI YASHIR from Digital Life Online meets Mr Arimasa Naitoh, vice-president of development for Lenovo's notebook division

PROBLEM SOLVER: Engineers take pride in their ability to solve problems, making things easier and faster for the end user, says Mr Naitoh.

He is popularly known as the Father of the ThinkPad notebook PC. And like most fathers, Mr Arimasa Naitoh, vice-president of Development for Lenovo's notebook division, is proud of his 'children'.

While with IBM, the 54-year old led the development of more than 20 different series of ThinkPad notebooks. For his dedication and passion to the industry, he was named IBM Fellow, the highest honour awarded by the company to a technologist.

An instrument engineer by training, Mr Naitoh spent the last three decades with IBM in several high-profile technology, engineering and development positions. When China computer giant Lenovo acquired the personal computing division from IBM in 2005, Mr Naitoh did what every father would do - ensured that his children would be well taken care of. During an interview with Digital Life at the Yamato Labs in Tokyo, Japan, Mr Naitoh shares his vision and passion for the ThinkPad under Lenovo's leadership.

"We want to understand what problems the customer is facing in their businesses. When they have problems and complaints, we have to innovate and use technology to help them solve them. If we cannot find a way, we are not innovating." - Mr Arimasa Naitoh

What is the future for ThinkPad under Lenovo?

Our commitment to the brand concept remains unchanged. We will continue to deliver value for the user. We will stay on the path of evolutionary refinement and innovation. We still want to focus on the large enterprises even though our latest notebook, the Lenovo 3000 series, is designed for small and medium businesses.

What goes into the development of a ThinkPad?

Innovation first. PCs have plenty of room for improvements... this is where we make use of innovation and technology to bridge the problems. Processes are important so that the company does not do something stupid.

For example, there are groups that take care of brand strategy, customer feedback, market analysis and technology outlook. They will then come up with research projects based on these discussions. In all, it takes about eight to 15 months product development cycle to produce a new notebook.

The technology roadmap takes a winding road as new technologies appear every so often. How do you focus on which one to choose?

I would say to my team, don't think of me as your boss or even as an IT guy. Think of me as your customer or your end user. If you have a new technology that you want to incorporate in our notebooks, stand in front of me and convince me.

Convert your technical formulae and graphs into customer value. Explain the value of your innovation, convince me the value of your new technology. For engineers, their personal motivation is the ability to convert their innovation to benefit the end user.

ThinkPad trivia

The First ThinkPad was born in 1992. It had a 10.4-inch colour TFT display and weighed 3kg. In a tie-up with Canon, the ThinkPad 550BJ featured a built-in bubble jet printer. It was launched in 1993. By 2006, some 30 million ThinkPads have been shipped worldwide.

'We want to understand what problems the customer is facing in their businesses. When they have problems and complaints, we have to innovate and use technology to help them solve them. If we cannot find a way, we are not innovating.' - Mr Arimasa Naito