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Lenovo 3000 Line Targets SMBs
By John Hazard and John G. Spooner

Lenovo has unveiled its Lenovo 3000 series of desktops and notebooks with prices and popular features aimed at the small and midsize business users that its Think product line has missed.

As expected, the new Lenovo-brand machines, starting at $349, will come with functions such as one-button disaster recovery and one-button Wi-Fi connectivity. They will offer a selection of processors—Lenovo 3000 desktops will offer both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices chips— as well as prices and ease-of-use features that Lenovo executives said will differentiate them from the herd.

The 3000 series is aimed at addressing the small business end of the market, where Lenovo’s ThinkPad and ThinkCentre, primarily built for midmarket and enterprise businesses, have captured only 5 percent of the market, said Craig Merrigan, vice president of Lenovo’s Strategy, Market Intelligence and Design Division.

Overall, Lenovo grew 12 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005, but lagged behind the bulk of the market, which grew at 18 percent.

“We’re missing out on the biggest growth piece of the market—the SMB,” Merrigan said. “This addresses that missing piece, where growth is the fastest. The market is growing so fast [in the SMB] and has yet to consolidate, that there’s room for one more offering.”

PointerClick here to read more about the Lenovo’s 3000 series.

“The way to interpret this whole thing is it’s the debutant ball,” said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technology Associates, of Wayland, Mass. “It’s the coming out of the new brand. It’s coming through some new channels and it raises the profile of the company, polishes up the Lenovo brand a bit and from there they can branch out some.”

Much of winning in the SMB market involves getting products in front of buyers, analysts have said. To that end, Lenovo aims to reach out with a new two-tier channel program through distributors, including an effort to recruit thousands of new SMB VARs, Merrigan said.

As part of the new channel program, Lenovo will add new pricing structures, education, training programs and “soft” money for marketing. The organization also expects to reallocate personnel to build an in-house sales unit supporting the SMB channel, Merrigan said.

The company will use its channel program in China, where more than 6,000 storefront dealers sell the Lenovo SMB line and the company enjoys 55 percent market-share as the benchmark for the new effort.

Lenovo expects to reveal details on its new channel programs, including support, education, training, margins and requirements at IBM’s PartnerWorld conference, which runs between March 12-16.

Meanwhile, the company will market its Lenovo 3000 series via retail. It will be available at 1,000 Office Depot retail outlets in the United States.

But the company has not yet pursued other retail placement, Merrigan said. Office Depot has as sold Lenovo’s ThinkPad since November.

Aside from attempting to create a new delivery system for its products, Lenovo said it has tailored its 3000 series’ pricing and functionality to fit the needs and constraints of SMB customers, said Sam Dusi, vice president of Lenovo’s notebook division.

“If you’re a small business, I would encourage you to check the pricing of other companies,” he said. “Compare it on value and no one is offering you a better value.”

Next page: Lenovo turns up the competitive heat among SMB vendors.

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