Lenovo PCs Debut

In its most significant step to date toward transitioning IBM-branded PCs to those of its new corporate parent, Lenovo has shipped its first line of desktops and notebooks outside its home base of China without the coveted Big Blue label.

The company's new Lenovo 3000 line comes without the familiar "Think" designation of its ThinkVantage desktop or ThinkPad notebooks. With this strategy, IBM/Lenovo aims to introduce the Lenovo brand to small businesses. The newly unveiled systems will be sold primarily through channel partners, according to company executives.

"The whole 3000 family is primarily a channel play," said Bryan Thomas, Lenovo's worldwide desktop product marketing manager, at a recent media event in New York. "That speaks to the customer set we're going after and how they buy."

The 3000 family includes Lenovo's C Series notebooks. Starting at $599, the C100 comes with an Intel 915 chipset and either a Pentium M or Celeron processor. Lenovo will also offer Centrino systems.

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The 6.2-pound C100 sports a 15-inch display and is a mere 1.3 inches thick. In addition, it provides a built-in memory-card reader, 802.11a/b/g wireless LAN connectivity, Bluetooth as an option (in some models) and a recordable-DVD drive. The notebooks also sport a more modern look and feel, and they come in a variety of colors. Each is equipped with an eight-cell lithium-ion battery rated at five hours of battery life.

Also new to market are Lenovo's N-Series notebooks, available with 14- and 15.4-inch-wide screen displays. Next quarter, the 12-inch V-Series will ship.

For now, the older ThinkPads will continue to carry the IBM brand, according to Craig Merrigan, Lenovo's vice president of branding and strategy, who expects the designation of the 3000 line without the ThinkPad label to enhance that brand. "I think this strengthens the Think position," he says.

Lenovo's new J-series desktop systems work with both Intel Pentium 4 and Celeron D processors, as well as AMD Semperon and Athlons. Prices begin at $349. Dual-core systems will follow later in the year.

Merrigan anticipates that more than 75 percent of sales will go through the channel. To support that, Lenovo has designed a channel program aimed at bringing the new line into the SMB segment.

The program, which features new marketing, education and incentives, is intended to educate new partners targeting small businesses rather than emerging enterprises and large organizations. "We need a lot more business partners--that is to say, tier-two resellers that target the small-business segment," Merrigan says. "We will be aggressively recruiting them."

The desired number of net-new partners is in the thousands, Merrigan says, adding that he's not sure how the distribution model for these products will pan out.