I wonder what it would take for a bunch of Thinkpadders to get together and produce a high-quality laptop for the market.
We need people with expertise. Hardware engineers mainly, but probably also software engineers for the firmware and software tools.
It is impossible to design and produce custom laptop in such small volume these days. However it might be possible to get a proper keyboard replacement at least.
I'm pretty sure that if T50 mobos could be made, it wouldn't be too hard to produce the rest of the laptop. (Reminder that there was already a Chinese X200 clone
back in 2011.)
Which is what I'd prefer in the grand scheme of things, since Lenovo has sorely been lacking in many departments besides the keyboard...
But it'd indeed be smart to begin with keyboards. If we can't get them directly from NMB or the likes, I'm certain there's all the necessary talent pool in PRC to produce a good copy of the classic keyboard; complete with the firmware (for proper key mapping) and why not including an external, USB version (I'd buy several of these).
The trick is to have Mandarin-speaking people quite knowledgeable about the local hardware scene, willing to liaise back and forth with potential manufacturers.
Which reminds me that Andrew "Bunny", who co-created the Novena open-source laptop, could be very helpful (maybe as a paid consultant since replicating a closed-source TP doesn't sound to be of interest to him) since he's both a Mandarin-speaker and very knowledgeable when it comes to both hardware making and hardware sourcing in PRC.
And I just saw that he's about to release
a guide to component sourcing in Shenzhen
I'm pretty sure that Lenovo would refuse to license us the design of their classic TP kbd, as they apparently forbad resellers to sell their old stocks (happened to me when I tried ordering a USB version), and there's also a slight chance that they reuse it in the oh-so-mythical Classic Thinkpad.
Even if they did license the design, it probably wouldn't entail embedded versions - only USB ones.
So despite goodwill, it appears that going not-so-legal through cloning would be our best bet. Which'd also mean that we wouldn't be able to raise funds through a Kickstarter campaign.