IBM WorkPad z50

System Type: 2608

The WorkPad z50 was released in 1999 for $999 to presumably take the role of a mimic thinclient in the corporate realm. Being that it wasn't fully a laptop, and not fully a PDA, the exact [nature] of it was sort of confused and lost: most people don't even know that this exists. IBM sharply discontinued them in 2000. Here's a brief excerpt from the press release regarding the laptop (and it looks like my suspicions of it gearing towards a thinclient role were correct):

"The new WorkPad z50 complements IBM's thin client initiative for the enterprise -- the IBM Network Station -- by offering the best of connected network functionality as well as core information processing capability when disconnected from the network. With Microsoft RDP client software or Citrix ICA (R) Client software, the WorkPad z50 can be used as a mobile terminal to run corporate desktop applications that reside on enterprise servers. By offering desktop and mobile thin-client devices, IBM once again illustrates its commitment to information devices used by businesses for Internet access, groupware and data retrieval."

It's not easy to understand [why] this was made. Probably one of the most bizarre products: the WorkPad z50 has the reputation of the most fully featured Windows CE machine ever made with a full sized keyboard, audio out, a trackpoint etc. One advantage this machine has is that it comes with AA battery packs to replace the [now] long exhausted lithium ion batteries: and as these are capable of taking linux, you can build yourself a miniature linux laptop that runs off of AA batteries. It has a very light plasticy feel to it (although the build quality is still impressive as it has a tiny magnesium rollcage despite the outside plastic), being very light and not too far off from the IBM PalmTop. The screen is a passive matrix, so it's rather blurry and not very inspiring at all.

The WorkPad also had an (and rather elaborate) optional leather carrying case. They retailed for over $250, so only a serious user of the WorkPad would have purchased one. The carrying case however has 'ThinkPad' tags all over it; as if that the lesser WorkPad users needed some more credibility to mask the fact they weren't using a ThinkPad? Whatever the case, the whole package was not cheap.

If you can find one, definitely convert it into a linux portable.

 

Downloads

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Specifications

*CPU: NEC VR4121 @ 131Mhz (16 KB instruction cache, 8 KB data cache)

*RAM: 16MB EDO-DRAM (expandable to 48MB with an optional, presumably uncommon 32MB SODIMM)

*One PCMCIA slot

*20 MB ROM (for Windows CE)

*4 MB of Video RAM

 

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