Lenovo Planning New Line of PCs for SMB Market

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Lenovo says its new line of PCs for the small and midsize business space will bridge the gap between its enterprise-class ThinkPad laptops and its consumer-targeted IdeaPad notebooks. Toshiba and Dell have recently signaled their intention to target the SMB space too.

Looking to tap into the small and midsize business space, Lenovo is planning to introduce a new line of PCs built specifically for that market and sold through channel partners, office retailers and direct market resellers.

Lenovo says the product line will bridge the gap between its ThinkPad line of notebook PCs it acquired from IBM that enjoys a stronghold in the enterprise market and the company's line of consumer PCs called IdeaPad that it originated in the China market.

The new line will be created with an eye to the price points that are palatable to small business customers while at the same time offering them more rugged and durable machines, says Stephen DiFranco. DiFranco joined Lenovo about nine months ago to run the company's retail channel but added Lenovo's commercial channel to his list of responsibilities a few months ago, and is now Lenovo's channel chief.

Lenovo will introduce this still-unnamed line of PCs before the summer, building off the ThinkPad brand that has been so popular in the enterprise space but coming out of the company's IdeaPad organization in China.

"The SMB product line will be an extension of teams in China who have been building for China market for a long time," says DiFranco. "It will be created from teams built from people from around the world.

"We are obviously going to have to leverage our leanest manufacturing and most efficient organizations to service the price points of SMB. This is an example of what is the best of Lenovo coming together."

And with the product line's introduction, Lenovo will be joining the crowd of PC makers looking to woo the SMB channel.

"When you look at PC sales we see more stability in SMB than in anything else," DiFranco says, when asked about what lies ahead in 2009. "Looking back, SMBs started feeling [the] pinch last August. Because their staffs tend to be smaller in general, they are able to respond a bit better. I think in the enterprise you see the swings are bigger because they are bigger."

Looking to win over this customer with its new product line, Lenovo is keeping a couple things in mind.

"The SMB customer doesn't want headaches," DiFranco says. "The issue is to build the kind of product that they can rely on, and then offer the kind of support behind that product that they can trust."

And Lenovo knows the channel is the door to reaching those SMBs with 10 to 500 employees.

"We want to build products for the channel," says DiFranco. "We want to build some products for that hole in the middle."

Lenovo's signaling of its intentions for this space follows a price drop by Toshiba directed at the very same market. And it's a market that Dell has pursued with its formal channel program in the last year as well.

"We are very conscious that the way we've approached channel in past has been about the enterprise side of channel," DiFranco says. "We haven't had programs or products or developed a community to service the SMB space." This new move will change that.

DiFranco says the PC line will be available through all Lenovo's traditional distributors in the United States: D&H Distributing, Ingram Micro, Synnex and Tech Data.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com