Lenovo To Inherit IBM Partner Management And Channel, IBM Channel Chief Says

"The team that takes care of the PC part of the business today will be same team, probably, that takes care of the PC business tomorrow," says Donn Atkins, general manager of IBM's global PartnerWorld program. "Programs put in place by IBM will be managed by people who launched them.

Atkins stopped short of naming the executive who will move over to Lenovo to run channels and distribution when the Chinese company officially takes over the manufacture, design and distribution of IBM-branded PCs. Earlier this week, IBM and Lenovo agreed to a landmark deal that will see Big Blue hand over the reins of what is essentially IBM's PC operation for $1.75 billion in cash and other considerations and a near 19 percent ownership in the company.

The deal is expected to have significant impact for partners, and Atkins was eager to share his thoughts this week on what the some 7,000 companies in North America that recommend, sell or integrate IBM PCs can expect when the business shifts to Lenovo sometime next spring. Partners will be invited to an all-comer Web seminar where additional details on the IBM handover to Lenovo will be further explained. For starters, partners in the field will not likely see too much upheaval in terms of programs, field personnel and field support. Long term, Atkins expects to work with the new Lenovo group in much the same manner in which his unit works with other parts of IBM today, including product, sales and marketing units.

As for Lenovo, it will have the independence to pursue opportunities and channel recruitment. One of those opportunities includes the option to rebrand the PC products as their own, according to Atkins. The ThinkPad name is highly prized in the marketplace, raising questions as to whether Lenovo would even want to rebrand, but Atkins says he believes over time the company will adopt its own name.

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As part of the transaction, Lenovo has access to PartnerWorld, the IBM sales force and IBM partners for up to five years or longer should the two companies choose to continue to pursue the opportunities. In addition, Lenovo and partners will have access to resources of IBM Global Finance and IBM Credit.

"All of our discussions have focused on the continuity of business," Atkins says. "Our desire is to make the transition transparent."

As for the competition, Atkins says that rivals looking to make gains at IBM' expense "are probably worried."

Asked about the possibility -- or likelihood, perhaps -- that the federal government might take issue with buying PCs from a company that is partially owned by the Chinese government, Atkins says he fully expects the company to continue competing for government business.