What Lenovo's 'PC Plus Era' Really Means For The Company And Its Channel


Ever since it acquired IBM’s PC unit in 2004, Lenovo and its iconic ThinkPad brand have been a staple in the personal computing space. But at its Accelerate Partner Summit 2012 event this week, Lenovo made it clear to partners that the PC market isn’t the only one in which it will continue to play.

The company is in the midst of transitioning to a new period in its eight-year run -- a period fittingly dubbed its "PC Plus Era" -- where partners will start to see an emphasis put on Lenovo servers, services, and mobile devices just as much as the PC.

Servers, in particular, are where Lenovo’s sights are set. This week the PC giant unveiled two new ThinkServer products, the RD530 and RD630, aimed at the low-end enterprise market. The launch marked the beginning of what the company called a "long journey" in the server space.

[Related: Lenovo Announces SMB Partner Advantage Program, Cash Rewards For Resellers]

Lenovo, who already has a ThinkServer line of SMB towers that it primarily sells in China, said the decision to extend its reach into the higher-end server market was prompted by partner request. Partners felt that servers were the missing puzzle piece to be able to offer a full, end-to-end Lenovo solution to their clients.

"As we move into 2012 … the product of the year is the server, and the route of the year is our value-added reseller community," said Sammy Kinlaw, director of channel sales at Lenovo, in an interview with CRN.

He said Lenovo’s emphasis on brand and channel program consistency will enable resellers in the traditional PC or client space to transition with ease into the server space.

"We have a lot of ThinkPad sellers, and those ThinkPad sellers should be selling the ThinkServer," Kinlaw said. "We have the trust of the partner, the quality and the reliability,” he said, adding that with the Lenovo experience that its partners have had, “there’s no reason that these experiences can’t translate to workstations and servers."

Lenovo believes its nearly 24,000 North American channel partners already have the skill sets needed to make this transition into the storage market a success. But, Kinlaw didn’t dismiss the idea of adding new channel partners this year who can help round out its new server offerings, most of which are slated to launch late this summer.

"I think we got the right partners," Kinlaw told CRN. "But does our competition have resellers that we would like to have? Of course."

The server market, in particular, will be an especially lucrative one for resellers. Lenovo told its partner community this week that they face an opportunity to double their margins as its new server offerings start to penetrate the market.

NEXT: Services, Smartphones Also Define 'PC Plus Era'