As Lenovo sets its sights on knocking HP off its throne to become the largest PC maker in the world, its channel partners are set to come along for the ride, facing new growth opportunities not only in the traditional notebook and desktop market but also within Lenovo's newest stomping grounds, the server and tablet markets, as well.
Fresh off a new partnership with storage giant EMC, Lenovo is aiming to bolster its ThinkServer offerings in the SMB space, a move that Chris Frey, Lenovo's North American channel chief, said will largely benefit partners. Lenovo's server push not only will arm partners with the ability to offer an end-to-end Lenovo solution but also give them a new choice to offer customers in the SMB or lower-end server space, a market that is sparse compared to the enterprise.
"I think our partners need a choice on the low end of the [server] market, because I'm not sure everybody wants to play there. We do," Frey said. "We want to play there, we want to grow there and we want to earn the right in that marketplace before we even consider moving up the scale."
Douglas Grosfield, CEO of Xylotek Solutions, an Ontario-based solution provider and Lenovo partner, agreed that Lenovo's new server offensive will not only afford partners more choice, but an opportunity to grow their margins by offering fully integrated, end-to-end Lenovo solutions.
"This will open the door for a higher level of integration and competition, providing partners like Xylotek with yet another cohesive solution offering to present to our clients to address technology needs in the x86 server market and storage space," Grosfield told CRN in an emailed statement.
Meanwhile, tablets, especially those based on Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 OS like Lenovo's new ThinkPad Tablet 2, also offer a new opportunity for partners. Windows 8 may prompt users who have been reluctant to buy an Android or iOS tablet to finally make the jump for a product like the ThinkPad Tablet 2, because they will feel more confident about the device integrating within their overall Windows-based environments.
Windows 8, which is set to launch in October, will make it easier for Lenovo partners to position tablets as being complementary to their clients' larger Windows ecosystems, affording them the opportunity to swoop in and help establish full client device management platforms to help IT teams monitor and secure these devices.
Still, Frey made it clear that while Lenovo will continue to build a strategy around tablets, they won't ever fully replace the Think-branded notebooks and desktops that have become the company's bread and butter.
"We need to adapt to the market and be able to bring new technologies to the market, but we will not bank our future on tablets," Frey said. "But, we will have the best tablet on the market."
NEXT: Lenovo Aims To Grow North American ChannelLenovo's North American channel has grown 200 percent over the last four years to nearly 24,000 partners. Much of this growth Frey attributed to Lenovo's increased brand recognition; partners and consumers alike now view the company as a stand-alone PC company, rather than just the IBM spin-off some viewed it as back in 2004.
He also attributed growth to Lenovo's robust partner programs, such as its SMB Partner Advantage program, which rewards cash prizes to VAR sales reps selling into small- and medium-sized clients.
Frey said he has no intentions of slowing Lenovo's North American channel growth any time soon. At least not until there is any more share of the SMB market to be had.
"I expect the business partner community to drive SMB for me, and I have less than 10 percent share in the SMB market in North America," Frey told CRN. "Until somebody can show me a mathematical equation that says I have 30 percent share in SMB [and tells me I] need to stop, I'll stop. But right now, I don’t have that problem, so the message to the partner community is if you want to be part of success and be part of the Lenovo community, we would love to have you."
PUBLISHED AUG. 21, 2012