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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 review by PC Magazine

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 review by PC Magazine Lenovo ThinkPad T60
REVIEW DATE: 03.06.06
Once again, the ThinkPad continues its winning streak of Editors' Choices for business notebooks, this time with the Lenovo ThinkPad T60. It's an expensive system, but the Intel Core Duo processor, built-in EV-DO, and long battery life justify the price.

Intel Core Duo processor. Better performance. Built-in EV-DO capability. Solid management utility. Three USB ports. Good battery life.

The tested configuration is pricey. Battery is no longer compatible with previous ThinkPads.


Price: $2,599.00 Direct
Type: Business
Operating System: MS Windows XP Professional
Processor Name: Intel Pentium M T2500
Processor Speed: 2 GHz
RAM: 1024 MB
Hard Drive Capacity: 100 GB
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon X1400
Primary Optical Drive: Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW
Wireless: 802.11a/g
Screen Size: 15 inches
Screen Size Type: standard
System Weight: 6.2 lbs

By Cisco Cheng

For years, the Lenovo (formerly IBM) ThinkPad T series has been racking up our Editors' Choice awards for business notebooks—and this year is no different. The ThinkPad T60 is Lenovo's newest corporate dream machine. Not only has the addition of the latest Intel Core Duo technology increased the performance monumentally, but Lenovo integrates 3G wireless with Verizon's EV-DO, so now you can get broadband access almost anywhere at any time you want.

The T60 comes in the traditional black, which may disappoint those who were anticipating a titanium cover like the one found on the Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m. In general, the design doesn't deviate from that of its predecessor, the ThinkPad T43. The only subtle differences are the EV-DO antenna protruding from the right side of the screen and the base, which is now covered with magnesium alloy (while the cover still uses a titanium composite), making the T60 a very durable notebook.

The "Access IBM" blue button is now a "ThinkVantage" blue button, which accesses a critically acclaimed abundance of management utilities. The Alt key has shrunk by half to accommodate the addition of a Windows key, which can be combined with other keys for Microsoft Windows and Office shortcuts. The keyboard feels stiffer, but it's still the best keyboard out there for typing. Lenovo's TrackPoint technology is also the best in the business, and we prefer it over the touchpad, both of which are included. Our T60 review unit is on the heavy side, tipping the scales at 6.2 pounds. But the extra weight is mostly due to the 15-inch screen and the 9-cell battery, which sticks out about an inch from the back. The display's resolution (1,400-by-1,050)is higher than that of the Z60t's widescreen (1,280-by-768).

* Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi
* Dell Inspiron E1705
* HP Pavilion dv4000
* IBM ThinkPad T43

We are happy to see three USB ports, instead of the two that come in the T43. The T60 still doesn't have a FireWire port or a memory card reader, which we can forgive, considering that this is a business-focused machine. The 100GB hard drive is plenty of storage for basic documents and productivity files—not to mention the occasional video for when you travel—and the dual-layer DVD±R drive can burn up to 8.5GB of data, provided you have the right media.

The T60 uses the Intel Core Duo T2500 (2.0 GHz) processor and 1GB of RAM, making it a very powerful system. Its configuration is similar to that of the Dell Inspiron E1705, and it performed about the same on our SYSMark 2004 SE tests. The Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi, which also includes an Intel Core Duo, surpassed the T60 by a 10 percent margin, thanks in part to its whopping 2GB of RAM. But more important, at least to ThinkPad diehards, the T60's performance improved drastically over that of the single-core T43, by 55 percent. Of course, some of that is due to the doubling in RAM (the T43 has 512MB); nevertheless, it's an impressive gain.

The T60 uses discrete graphics with the ATI Mobility Radeon X1400, which is a step down from the Radeon X1600 loaded on the Acer. The T60 could not complete any of our gaming tests, but it's not meant for gaming—you probably won't be playing Doom 3 on it.

The ThinkPad T60 beats the Acer on battery life. It lasted 5 hours 16 minutes on our MobileMark 2005 tests; the Acer system lasted 3:47. Unfortunately, the T60 is using a new battery design that is not backward-compatible with previous ThinkPad models.

The protruding antenna we mentioned is your ticket to broadband access using Verizon's EV-DO network. On our throughput tests, the EV-DO antenna showed downstream rates at expected levels, with an average rate of 650 Kbps when measured from our Manhattan offices. We were able to get around 600 to 680 Kbps throughout various locations in New York (Manhattan and Queens), which approaches the 1 Mbps threshold for true broadband throughput.

Verizon's VZAccess Manager client utility is preconfigured with the EV-DO wireless module, and the interface is simple to use, but it doesn't manage your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections. We actually prefer managing the EV-DO connection through Lenovo's Access Connections, along with our other wireless connections. Access Connections lets you create user profiles and switch between an EV-DO profile, a Wi-Fi profile, and a wired profile. It's the only management utility that lets you do this. The EV-DO subscription price is still steep ($59.99 for unlimited service if you already have a Verizon voice plan), but if you travel frequently, pay for hotel Wi-Fi, and need to be constantly connected, the plan will pay off.

Access Connections is part of the impressive ThinkVantage management suite. The new interface launches as quickly as the Windows Start menu, and every utility is conveniently tied into the interface. You can choose to back up your drive or restore it to factory defaults if it goes bad. The maintenance utility runs your hard drive cleanups, virus scans, and disc backups when you're away from your computer. Enabling Whisper mode lets the user control the how much of the system's resources are used by a particular program. That is helpful with something like a virus scan, which runs in the background and can leave you short of resources for your other programs.

This particular configuration is rather expensive at $2,599, but simpler versions start at $1,299. The Lenovo ThinkPad T60 gives you a big bump in performance with the Core Duo technology, and it has built-in EV-DO. It's our pick for the ultimate boardroom companion.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Huge Phone Deal Seeks to Thwart Smaller Rivals - New York Times

Huge Phone Deal Seeks to Thwart Smaller Rivals - New York TimesMarch 6, 2006
Huge Phone Deal Seeks to Thwart Smaller Rivals

The AT&T Corporation, in announcing plans yesterday to buy BellSouth Corporation for $67 billion after months of speculation, took the offensive against low-cost rivals in the free-for-all for phone, wireless and television customers.

With cable providers and technology companies entering the phone business, the former Baby Bells starting to sell television programming and more and more services available on mobile phones and on the Internet, companies like AT&T are trying to bulk up and turn themselves into one-stop shops for all communications needs.

"We literally have hundreds of competitors coming in every day; it's nothing like the old days," said Edward E. Whitacre, Jr., the chairman and chief executive of AT&T, the country's largest phone company. "If we're going to have the strength to compete, we better get our companies together."

The new company, with $120 billion in sales, about 317,000 workers and 71 million local phone customers in 22 states, would recreate a big chunk of the former AT&T monopoly that was broken up a generation ago. With the deal, only three Baby Bells would remain: AT&T, the former SBC Communications that provided service in the Southwest and elsewhere; Qwest and Verizon, the $90 billion company which is AT&T's chief rival. The latter two might now face renewed pressure to build themselves up.

The merger, one of the dozen largest deals ever, was long the subject of speculation and got a major push in January when the chiefs of both companies went bird hunting together in Georgia.

The deal still must pass muster with regulators and it will probably face close scrutiny from consumer groups and AT&T's main competitors who argue the merger would give AT&T too much power and will ultimately lead to higher prices.

But while AT&T — which was formed last year when SBC bought the long-distance carrier, AT&T — might look much like its old self, the landscape where it competes is completely different. In 1984, when the old Ma Bell was broken up, the Internet and cellphone service barely existed and the cable industries was far smaller.

The new, more complex environment is a big reason why anti-trust watchdogs have not blocked large phone deals in recent years. Regulators in the Bush Administration have also been generally sympathetic to mergers, which has not escaped AT&T's attention, analysts said.

Indeed, AT&T and BellSouth consider themselves complementary partners because they compete very little for local phone and Internet customers, and they jointly own Cingular Wireless.

As a result, consumers buying services from AT&T, BellSouth and Cingular are unlikely to see much immediate impact. Ultimately, the companies hope that their new size will help them hold down their prices and potentially undercut cable and satellite companies with cheaper television programming, which they are just beginning to introduce.

Any benefits to customers notwithstanding, consumer groups expressed concern about a deal to merge the two companies.

"Things were already quite bad, but this eliminates any possibility of phone companies competing against each other," said Gene Kimmelman, the vice president for federal policy at Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports. "The bottom line for consumers is that you can kiss goodbye the declining cellphone and long distance prices that people have become used to." Investors have considered a union between AT&T and BellSouth likely because of their mutual stake in Cingular and because of their shared history as Baby Bells.

Mr. Whitacre has not been shy about paying top dollar for rivals to scare away other bidders. In the past decade, he bought three other local phone companies, Pacific Telesis Group, Southern New England Telecommunications and Ameritech Corp.

In 2004, Cingular bought AT&T Wireless for $41 billion, and last year, SBC bought AT&T for $16.8 billion and adopted its name.

"The empire-building continues," said Jeffrey Halpern, an industry analyst at Sanford Bernstein. "He has a track record of gobbling competitors at premium prices."

AT&T said it would pay $37.09 for BellSouth's shares, which is 17.9 percent above the closing stock price on Friday. The company, whose headquarters will remain in San Antonio, said it expected to save about $2 billion a year by buying BellSouth, some of which would come from an unspecified number of job cuts. AT&T planned to keep its name if the merger is approved, and Mr. Whitacre would remain at the helm.

With the deal, Duane Ackerman, the chairman of BellSouth, and several of his top lieutenants stand to collect hefty special payments, according to the terms of their employment contracts. Mr. Ackerman, who 63 years old and nearing retirement, could sell $28,374,000 worth of restricted stock and options if he is asked to leave the company, according to publicly filed documents.

Mr. Whitacre and Mr. Ackerman have been inching closer to a deal for years. In the fall of 2004, the companies held extensive negotiations, but the talks collapsed after BellSouth pushed for a price that included a premium of more than 30 percent, people involved in those talks said.

Mr. Whitacre then turned his attention to buying AT&T. Just days before that deal was signed, BellSouth tried to return to the bargaining table, seeking a premium of slightly more than 20 percent, these people said. But it was too late for Mr. Whitacre to turn back.

When SBC absorbed AT&T in November, Mr. Whitacre turned once again to BellSouth because, among other reasons, the two companies were having trouble managing Cingular. In mid-January, Mr. Whitacre sent one of his bankers, Roger Altman, who worked in the Treasury Department under President Clinton, to approach Mr. Ackerman again and make an informal proposal. The next day, Mr. Whitacre and Mr. Ackerman went bird hunting, these people said.

After their day out, the men promised to go to their boards and pursue a deal. Several weeks later, the executives met again privately and shook hands on a deal, setting off another three-week marathon of conference calls and meetings.

The deal was given the code name Project Mountain, while AT&T was referred to as Aspen, BellSouth was called Birch and Cingular Cedar. The mountain theme was chosen because, as one person put it, "This deal has been a long climb."

Over the last three weeks, both sides camped out at the midtown Manhattan offices of Sullivan & Cromwell, which represented AT&T. Mr. Whitacre called in from Turino, where he was watching the Olympics. On Saturday, the boards of both companies met to approve the transaction.

The new company would dwarf its nearest competitor, Verizon, which has in the past reacted to Mr. Whitacre's deals by following with ones of its own. After SBC bought AT&T last year, for example, Verizon outbid Qwest Communications for control of MCI Inc., the long-distance carrier.

Verizon's next move will probably be to try to dissolve its relationship with Vodafone, which owns 45 percent of Verizon Wireless. Verizon has expressed interest in buying Vodafone's share, but the price tag is likely to be steep because Verizon Wireless is extremely profitable.

Less likely, Verizon could also pursue Qwest, the primary local phone provider in the western United States, which is saddled with heavy debts. Verizon may also look more closely at Alltel, the country's fifth-largest wireless carrier.

"Verizon's business plan remains unchanged," said Peter Thonis, a Verizon spokesman. "We are focused on integrating MCI, divesting our directories business and working to acquire from Vodafone the remaining 45 percent of Verizon Wireless."

Verizon, like AT&T, is also trying to head off its rivals by offering its own television services. But the construction of the networks to carry their programming is proving expensive and the carriers have had to acquire permission from municipalities to sell their service.

The Bells have asked lawmakers in Washington to help them streamline the process, alarming cable companies that have moved closer together to defend themselves.

In addition to selling home phone lines, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other cable companies are working with Sprint-Nextel, the third-largest cellphone company, to introduce mobile phone services that compete with Cingular and Verizon Wireless.

Cable companies are also using Sprint's long-distance network to carry its phone calls to rely less on AT&T and Verizon.

"Cable and Sprint are the counter force to the Bells," said Daniel Berninger, an analyst at Tier 1 Research. "The cable guys may get more aggressive and stick it to the Bells" as a result of an AT&T-BellSouth deal, he said.

Mr. Berninger said cable companies might distance themselves from a plan by the Bells to charge content providers like Amazon and Yahoo to guarantee that their content is delivered to customers faster. Consumer groups, technology companies and lawmakers worry that such a service would destroy the open nature of the Internet.

Andrew Ross Sorkin and Eric Dash contributed reporting for this article.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Cingular's Parents to Merge: AT&T to buy BellSouth (MobileBurn)

Cingular's Parents to Merge: AT&T to buy BellSouth (MobileBurn): Cingular's Parents to Merge: AT&T to buy BellSouth

News by Michael Oryl (editor) on Sunday March 05, 2006.

Note: Sponsored advertising links, if any, are in green.

According to the Wall Street Journal, US telecom firm AT&T (formerly SBC) is planning to purchase BellSouth. AT&T and BellSouth are the co-owners of Cingular, the largest wireless carrier in the United States. The deal is supposedly worth US$65 Billion, and would create a company that is 50% larger than Verizon (majority owner of Verizon Wireless).

AT&T had said in the past that it did not plan on changing Cingular's name to AT&T, but we'll see if that holds true now that Cingular will be 100% owned by the company.