Reviewed: ThinkPad, A Different Shade of Blue: Building a Successful IBM Brand

One can only imagine who benefits from a book about building a "successful IBM brand"; surely the world at large has nothing to gain from understanding the vast levels of hierarchy that existing within International Business Machines. But "ThinkPad" suffers most by taking what could be an exciting topic--the history of the world's most recognized and sought-after portable computers--and turns it into an exercise in frustration.

The biggest sin here is the writing style, which is dry and uninformative. Each chapter, laid out in a boring corporate timeline structure, is concluded with (and no, I'm not kidding) an "Author's Insights" section that provides a simple summary of the preceding chapter with no new information and no insights at all. Here's some advice: Put your "insights" into the rest of your writing; it's why people will want to read the book. Sadly, insights are the one thing lacking in this book, though some of the stories, such as the development of the excellent "eraser-head" mouse are engaging enough. It's just that you have to get over the writing to appreciate them.

Another problem here has to do with the photographs, which are littered haphazardly throughout the book. We're treated to the exact same photos of the IBM PC Jr. keyboard and an IBM employee picnic, twice each. But more relevant photos are nowhere to be found: Where's the cool "butterfly" keyboard? Where are the insider pictures of products that never saw the light of day? Despite the fact that Dell works for IBM and that IBM gave legal permission for this title to be published, we're denied even the simplest of insider insight here.

"ThinkPad" is a dull, monotonous tome that does its topic a giant disservice while reeking of corporate dryness and an air of IBM's Big Brother-like influence. As an IBM employee says in the book, "I think that one of my personal accomplishments was just surviving the IBM culture." Too bad the same can't be said of this book.


ThinkPad, A Different Shade of Blue: Building a Successful IBM Brand
by Debra Dell and J. Gerry Purdy
Sams Publishing, 1999
ISBN: 0-672-31756-

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