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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

here to read about how PC refresh cycles are stretching to five years.

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.

here to read about what vendors are hurting the most from recent declines in
notebook shipments.

"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.