Lenovo Goes for SMB Gold with New PC Line

The PC maker will pursue small businesses with a new line of Lenovo-brand PCs whose designs, prices and features set them apart from its Think products.

Lenovo Group is putting its name down on a new strategy to pursue the small and midsize business market.

Lenovo executives, speaking at an event in New York on Feb. 23, are expected to unveil a broad range of desktops and notebooks under the brand name Lenovo 3000, some of which will offer Advanced Micro Devices processors.

Along with the brand, the company is expected to announce a plan to get the new line into the hands of small business proprietors.

Lenovo 3000 machines will differ from Lenovos Think line of products by offering their own set of features, configurations—not the least of which will be AMD chips in the Lenovo 3000 J Series desktops—and prices.

The desktops will start at about $350, while Lenovo 3000 C Series notebooks will start at about $600, sources familiar with the companys plans said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Lenovos SMB ambitions.

The Purchase, N.Y., PC maker has been eyeing the SMB market since acquiring IBMs PC business last May, will likely advertise the its Lenovo 3000 machines, such as the J100 desktops, as offering a good balance of price, performance and manageability features for small businesses interested in low-price equipment.

Lenovo has also aimed its ThinkCentre E Series desktop, starting at $399, toward businesses with up to 99 employees.

That machine, however, comes with features such as Rescue and Recovery software, part of Lenovos ThinkVantage line of no-charge add-ons designed to cut management costs or bolster security. Rescue and Recovery allows a PC to survive a crash and resume operating without losing data.

The companys Lenovo 3000 machines will not come with ThinkVantage technologies. However, they will include their own support tools for jobs such as system recovery, the sources said.

Lenovo 3000 J100 desktops will offer Intel Celeron D and Pentium 4 processors, along with a range of memory allotments, hard drive sizes and CD and DVD burners. The company is also expected to offer a J105 desktop that touts AMDs Sempron and Athlon 64 processors, with similar component choices. The machines will be available almost immediately, the sources said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about Lenovos choice of CEO, William Amelio, former head of Dells division.

Lenovo 3000 notebooks will offer some ThinkPad-like features, like their desktop counterparts, but will not include some of the more advanced features available in the Think machines.

The first Lenovo 3000 C Series notebook, the C100, will offer a 15-inch screen with Intel Pentium M processors and wireless networking. It will start at around $600 and come out in March, sources said.

Already, Lenovo has been targeting SMBs with its Z Series ThinkPad, which starts at $799. Its ThinkPad R Series starts at $749.

The company will follow up with N Series and V Series notebooks. Its N100 line is expected to offer 14.1-inch and 15.4-inch widescreen displays, and Intel processors. It may also be a candidate for AMD chips. The V100, arriving later in the first half of 2006, will be a smaller, more lightweight system with a 12-inch widescreen, the sources said.

Lenovo is expected to sell the machines both direct and through distributors. However, its emphasis is expected to be on selling via distributors, particularly those who focus on small businesses.

Thus, one of the main issues for Lenovo—aside from getting the right mix of pricing and features on the new Lenovo 3000 machines—will be finding the right sales channels, analysts said.

"When youre trying to go for SMB, you can have nice products, but I think your go-to-market routes are even more important than your products," said Steve Baker, an analyst at NPD Group. "The thing it comes down to is, are you offering the right prices and the right ways for them to buy? The most important piece to SMB is being able to get what they want."

Lenovo will face competition from larger rival Hewlett-Packard, which has broad-based relationships with resellers, in addition to upstarts such as Acer, which has been attempting to make a mark in the United States by partnering with resellers. Attacking via alternate routes would help Lenovo as well, Baker suggested.

"I dont know that anyones come up with a good, solid strategy in the United States, yet, to use retailers to go to the SMB market," Baker said. "Its not an easy route, but it does offer a lot of potential."

Lenovo isnt expected to tackle retail immediately. However, the company may offer the machines via that channel at some point, sources familiar with its plans said.

However, seeing Lenovo-brand machines at mass merchants is unlikely. Instead, the company would look to sell via retailers who target small businesses in deals that are similar to its pact with Office Depot, which sells a limited number of ThinkPads.

A Lenovo spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

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