Lenovo Thinks Hard About the Future

Lenovo, which acquired IBM's PC business, is now looking to get to know users, while at the same time it beefs up its ThinkPad and other product brands and feels out new markets.

Lenovo, which last week completed its acquisition of IBMs Personal Computing Division, is now moving to establish its new product lines and marketing strategies around the world.

Although Lenovo Group Ltd. is still poring over market research and finalizing many of its plans, one thing is for sure: The ThinkPad name will maintain its prime real estate atop the lids of Lenovo notebooks long after the IBM moniker fades. The same can be said for its ThinkCentre desktop brand.

The "new Lenovo," as its executives refer to it, intends to promote its most powerful brands—ThinkPad, for one, is one of the best-known names in the computer industry—as part of a plan to introduce itself.

Its a fairly straightforward approach, designed to build on its IBM acquisition. But it underscores some of the new Lenovos greatest challenges.

Although Lenovo will keep the IBM name on its products for the foreseeable future, it can only do so for a maximum of five years, meaning it must strengthen ThinkPad and ThinkCentre, while at the same time promoting its new name and products without alienating its existing customers and partners or turning off potential future customers.

Right now, "There are some things that are pretty clear. One is, when you look at ThinkPad, the level of awareness is pretty high. One of the actions weve started to take is to strengthen the ThinkPad and ThinkCentre product brands," said Deepak Advani, Lenovos senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

"ThinkPad is the brand that everyone talks about and everyone raves about. There will be no doubt that ThinkPad is made by Lenovo, just like iPod is made by Apple. People dont want an Apple iPod—they want an iPod."

Thus, over time, the IBM ThinkPad name will simply become ThinkPad and IBM ThinkCentre will become ThinkCentre, all while it launches new products and enters new markets.

By extension, Lenovo will become known as the company that makes ThinkPad. But little else is likely to change for big IBM customers, one analyst recently briefed by Lenovo said.

"The ThinkPad and ThinkCentre product lines are not going to change," said Leslie Fiering, analyst with Gartner Group. "The only likelihood that I see is pricing is going to get better."

Having gained some heft and shed the overhead of IBM corporate, Lenovo should be able to become more aggressive on prices in its efforts to grow.

The company told analysts that its aspiration is to grow become one of the top two computer makers by 2010, Fiering said.

"And theyre serious about it," she said.

Next Page: Giants stand in the way.