PC Makers Look to Woo SMBs, Resellers in 2009

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

PC sales are expected to decline in 2009, so it is no surprise that vendors such as Toshiba and Lenovo are looking to hedge their bets with new PC lineups designed for SMBs and the channel. But they are going against some giants already in the space, including Dell, HP and Acer.

PC makers may be looking to hedge their bets in 2009 with more attention to the small and midsize business market, and that means they'll be looking to woo IT solution providers.

Already two big PC makers—Lenovo and Toshiba—are doing just that, and they are entering a crowded field of heavy hitters such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Acer.

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Toshiba at the end of January dropped the price of its year-old Satellite Pro S300 line of PCs designed with the channel and SMB customers in mind. The entry-level price point of $529, together with the features that business users want, such as a shockproof system and spillproof keyboard, offers channel partners something new to bring to their small business customers. This Satellite Pro S300 line was created in 2008 with an eye to sales through the channel.

And Lenovo, in the last week of January, signaled its intention to introduce a new line of PCs that would bridge the gap between its enterprise-class ThinkPad computers and its IdeaPad line that comes out of China and is targeted at the consumer market.

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"Generally SMB is a nice hedge against enterprise sales because it behaves more like the consumer in terms of buying patterns but does develop a stronger brand loyalty than the enterprise often does," says Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"The trick is to provide a product that looks SMB-focused without increasing your cost of sales so much it blows out margins," Enderle adds. "You really need a strong channel plan for this segment to work right and that means you really need to focus on what the channel and SMB buyer want, often very difficult for large companies."

But what about Panasonic's new line of Toughbooks with prices north of $3,000 and targeted at high-end industry verticals? Enterprise sales may still be tough in the future, according to most analysts who have forecast a decline in PC and server sales for 2009.

"We'll see what Windows 7 brings, but my guess is that the economy will hurt 2009 a lot, and we'll be looking at 2010 to reverse this trend," Enderle agrees.

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

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