There are two operating systems on your ThinkPad. There is the one you always use and update (and update).
Then there is another one that, although not generally known as an operating system, sits on a hidden partition and allows you to reboot and open files and generally acts as a life preserver should you get clobbered by the latest bug, virus or general piece of malware floating about the digital ether.
I didnt know that Windows PE (Preinstallation Environment) has been included on the IBM Think systems for the past year until Steve Ward told me about it during the IBM PartnerWorld show in Las Vegas last week.
Steve is the IBM executive due to become the president of Lenovo when the IBM PC division is hived off the IBM mother ship, melded with Chinas Lenovo and sent to do battle with Dell and every other PC challenger on the planet. Ward, along with Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing, met with me to talk about that challenge and what the new combined company will look like.
“What you can expect from Lenovo is a company that is absolutely the most efficient in manufacturing and supply, coupled with strong innovation,” said Ward.
Ill admit to being impressed with Wards and Yuanqings plans. I had many of the same questions as did corporate customers long familiar with the Think (especially the ThinkPad) line.
While IBM is a familiar brand, Lenovo is an unknown in the United States. ThinkPads are known as reliable but expensive and seemed a product IBM was never able to build into a sustainably profitable business. The history of PCs is littered with companies that dismissed Dell as a manufacturing genius that was lacking in innovation and vision.
So what is the plan? In the United States, “the first thing we will do is go deeper into the corporate market and deeper into the small- and midsize-business market,” said Ward. But plans for market penetration are not sales. And plans for market penetration are not channel management. What has changed this time around?
What Lenovo Has to
First, both Ward and Yuanqing say they are not trying to be the low-cost competitor.
They point to the number of patents the two companies have garnered (more than 1,000) between them, the history of innovation in the ThinkPad heritage, the power of Lenovo as the largest PC organization in China and the willingness to build computers to user needs rather than be tied to component vendor product schedules.
Lenovo is a major partner with AMD in China. Dell continues to adhere to the product cycles of Microsoft and Intel. While contending the company doesnt want to be the low-cost competitor, Ward also claimed that the scale difference in manufacturing costs among the PC vendors is not as large as it once was.
Will the combination of IBMs ThinkPad heritage and Lenovos understanding of manufacturing, distribution and the huge emerging market of China create a company that will give U.S. technology executives a reason to look to Lenovo during the next computer replacement or upgrade cycle?
Yes, if the new Lenovo can offer a more secure, more reliable, more flexible PC in a configuration and price desired by the customers beyond what Dell or other competitors can offer.
That configuration could resemble standard Windows/Intel systems fortified by security, accessibility and user-friendly features developed by Lenovo. That configuration could extend to non-Intel or non-Microsoft offerings if there were user demand.
That hidden Windows PE file, the shock absorber pad surrounding your disk drive and fingerprint identification technology offered on current ThinkPad systems are examples of how to surround standard setups with innovation. At the heart of the strategy is the plan to build PCs that cut way back on service costs because they are reliable, safe and self-healing. Not a bad idea.
“This is an opportunity to change the landscape,” said Ward. Id agree that the landscape does indeed need changing.
Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at [email protected].