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Lenovo Teams With Industry Titans To Focus On Security Solutions

China-based PC maker Lenovo is teaming with industry titans such as IBM, Microsoft and Symantec to create a multimillion-dollar "innovation center" that initially will focus on security solutions.

The Lenovo Innovation Center is being established with an investment of more than $2 million by the founding members, which also include Intel and LANDesk. Lenovo plans to officially announce the center, which will include other hardware and software partners, on Tuesday. The move represents one of the first steps that Lenovo has taken since completing a $1.75 billion deal to buy IBM's $12 billion PC business earlier this month.

Plans call for the Innovation Center to be housed in a briefing facility that's being expanded at Lenovo's Research Triangle Park, N.C., location. Construction of the center, to be staffed by a half-dozen Lenovo employees, is expected to begin in the third quarter.

Deepak Advani, chief marketing officer for Lenovo, said the Innovation Center aims to deliver state-of-the-art, real-world solutions for customers by bringing together key vendors with solution providers. The Innovation Center will develop solutions from a "holistic," multivendor perspective rather than from a narrow, PC-centric view, he said.

With security being top-of-mind for solution providers and customers today, the initial development of the center is slated to leverage the Lenovo biometric fingerprint reader for ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops, according to Advani. Lenovo is interested in developing an integrated security solution that links seamlessly into back-end software and infrastructure, he said. Before IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo, the IT giant worked on a wireless LAN solution for small- and midsize-business customers under a similar initiative.

"People are so dependent on their PCs and notebooks that you can no longer rely on a vanilla commodity PC that doesn't have security built in," Advani said. "By focusing on security with ThinkPads and ThinkCentres and building on that, and pulling together all the pieces of the solution, we believe we will be able to offer a unique value proposition to our customers."

The Innovation Center is evaluating proposals for initial projects, including those from solution providers, and it likely will concentrate on about a dozen solutions projects over the next year, Advani said. "Some solutions will take longer to bake than others," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if some of them require participants to make changes to their software."

Bob Venero, CEO of FutureTech, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider with a ThinkVantage Technologies Center, said the Lenovo Innovation Center isn't intended to compete with VARs but to educate customers about the power of Lenovo ThinkVantage technologies.

"This is all about products and software from a solution perspective rather than from a traditional box-pusher perspective," Venero said. "This is about the mindset that has always been at the heart of IBM ThinkPad and ThinkCentre. It's the value of the total solution vs. the individual component."

Since FutureTech started selling ThinkVantage offerings, its success rate in getting customers to adopt the product has increased by as much as 50 percent, leading to higher margins and more sales for the solution provider, Venero said.

"This has been a catalyst for us from a margin increase perspective," he said. "This is about a solution set and working off the value of ThinkVantage rather than just speeds and feeds. That is what the CDWs and Dells of the world are there for. We are talking about business continuity and business processes and overall total cost of ownership. That brings value to the customers and margins to the VAR."

Venero, for his part, is conducting customer seminars centered around the ThinkVantage technologies. For example, this week, FutureTech is holding a multivendor security solution seminar tied to the ThinkVantage technologies, and Venero said he expects more than 40 people from 15 businesses to attend the session.

One sign of the success FutureTech is having with ThinkVantage is with a recent Dell account, which had refused to look at the Lenovo offering until the solution provider brought the ThinkVantage features to the table, Venero added.

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