Are Lenovo ThinkPad Laptops Still Best for the Enterprise?

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-06-24

Are Lenovo ThinkPad Laptops Still Best for the Enterprise?

Lenovo announced June 23 that it has launched a new notebook designed specifically for the enterprise. Dubbed the ThinkPad T400s, the notebook sports a thin-and-light feel with more battery life. It also includes an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and the option of installing a solid state drive. The ThinkPad T400s has a 14.1-inch display, and weighs just 3.9 pounds. The starting price is set at $1,599.

Lenovo has high hopes for the T400s. The company that once controlled the enterprise market is now the world's fourth-largest PC manufacturer. In recent years, it has even slipped in the enterprise as HP and Dell provided compelling alternatives. 

It wasn't uncommon for IT consultants to recommend Lenovo PCs to enterprise clients on a daily basis just a few years ago. Today, most consultants will tell you that it's a tough battle between HP, Dell and Lenovo.

Realizing that, Lenovo is taking a hard line in its focus on the enterprise. 

According to the company's worldwide segment manager for the ThinkPad T-Series, David Critchley, Lenovo's new T-400s took "the structure and some of the sub-components" of its high-end X300 series and "matched them with the manageability, performance and cost-optimized attributes of the T400 into...the T400s."

"It's really light and really thin for a corporate system and we think it's in a class by itself for corporate notebooks," Critchley said.


The HP EliteBook 2730p SKU, priced at $1,599 -- the same price as the T400s -- is designed specifically for the enterprise. It sports a slower processor (a 1.86GHz chip, compared to Lenovo's standard 2.4 GHz processor), but it has the same battery life as Lenovo's notebook. Both computers have the same hard drive capacity, they both have the same graphics card, and the HP notebook has a slightly smaller display of 12.1 inches. 

It seems the Lenovo T400s is slightly better.

But I should note that I only compared a single corporate HP notebook to the T400s. If a company decides instead that it wants an HP notebook that's built for consumers, the T400s will easily lose the battle on specs. Plus, it'll have a better price. So, Lenovo might have won against one HP notebook, but don't be surprised if you find more to like on HP's product line, rather than Lenovo's.


Dell is a different story. That company's Latitude E4300 notebook bests the Lenovo T400s. It sports a 2.53GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, a 160GB 7,200-rpm hard drive, and draft-N wireless connectivity. But it gets better -- the Latitude E4300 costs just $1,515. That's $84 cheaper than the Lenovo T400s for a computer that's slightly better.

Of course, much more goes into the enterprise buying decision than specs and price. 

Which company will offer the best customer service? Which company will offer the best deal if an organization buys multiple computers? And most importantly, which company provides the most reliable product? Years ago, the answer was easy -- Lenovo. But in today's market, it's not so simple.

According to Reuters, Lenovo held just 7.5 percent of the worldwide PC market share by the end of 2008. And in the United States, the company failed to make even the top five of the most popular vendors. Its business is a fraction of the size of Dell's and HP's and it was even forced to fire its CEO after poor performance. 

In the meantime, its ThinkPad series has slipped in the enterprise as HP and Dell have taken control.

Perhaps it's a bigger problem than some basic specs. Lenovo pricing is competitive and the T400s looks to be a fine device. But since Lenovo's business is practically non-existent in the United States, most companies might feel more secure working with HP or Dell. And although the ThinkPad line was once the best and brightest in the enterprise, Lenovo's competition has caught up. 

The business world is now forced to make decisions not on the components, since they're all the same, but on the quality of the intangibles. Once again, Lenovo falls short.

And this is where Lenovo finds itself today. 

Sure, it has a computer that can match the competition, but is the T400s enough to bring Lenovo back?  Not a chance.

Lenovo's problems are too big and too damaging to its operation for it to be considered the best in the enterprise. 

Does it offer nice computers? Sure. But in today's market, HP and Dell provide comparable hardware at the same or even cheaper prices. They have the size and cash to do that. Lenovo doesn't. And that could eventually lead to its downfall.

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