The Mobile Quandry: Q&A With Lenovo's Chris Frey


CRN's Kathy Kim spoke with Chris Frey, vice president of North
America channels and SMB at Lenovo, about the opportunities
and challenges around mobility. Following are excerpts.

CRN: What's your view on BYOD and mobility as it relates to the
channel?

Frey: In my personal view as it relates the channel dealing with
BYOD, I think it's maybe the biggest challenge on the device
front for quite some time because, historically, replacing a mobile
device or laptop you had a clientele to pick from and it wasn't
that hard to pick a product; whether you wanted an entry-level
notebook or a premium notebook, they were all pretty much the
same years ago.

But now one of the concerns that partners have
and address is what I call 'device confusion' in the market. I think
that not only for business partners and solution providers but also
for customers—with XP support going away and a fresh cycle
taking place—the challenge is understanding what to choose in a
world where there's many different choices for devices. It could
be small-form-factor tablets, it could be [tablet-notebook] convertibles,
or it could be touch-screen clamshells coming out later this
year.

So I think it's hard right now. And from Lenovo's standpoint,
one thing we aren't spending a lot of time on is explaining to business
partners why to go with Lenovo versus everyone else. You
can imagine, with all of the sellers in the marketplace today, trying
to get partner mind share on four or five devices when they get to
pick from 50 or 60 devices is going to be pretty tough.

[Related: Another Windows RT Loss: Lenovo Cuts Yoga 11 With RT]

CRN: So how do you clear up that confusion?

Frey: The way we're looking at mobility is a little different. We
announced recently new ‘combat touch kits' and these are kits
with four of our current touch-enabled devices [Thinkpad Tablet
2, Thinkpad Twist, X1 Carbon touch and Helix] that we made
available through distributors to the business partner community,
and they can then put those in the hands of actual users. This
is important because people are confused about which device
to get and partners aren't quite sure what to recommend, and I
think consumerization is enabling every single person to have their
own user experience and want their own usage model.

CRN: So once they have these devices, what's the next step?

Frey: My sales organization is talking to business partners about
a couple of things; first is making sure the partners understand
our devices, showing usage models and educating them through
these combat kits. And secondly, we're talking to them about a
[mobility] practice, which is critical over the next six to nine months
so that partners can talk to customers about BYOD and mobility.

CRN: Why is the channel important in the mobility space?

Frey: If you look at our most recent earnings announcement,
for both worldwide earnings and North America earnings, the
commercial channel is a very strategic part of that success. So
85 percent of our commercial business in North America goes
through the channel and we've grown at a 20-point premium
compared to the overall market for many quarters in a row, which
means a lot of revenue growth. So the No. 1 reason is, they
helped up get to where we're at today. And we owe them the
best innovation in the planet so that they can go and address the
concerns that customers have. So we can't desert our channel
partners during a time of complexity and uncertainty.