Lenovo North America President: Windows 11, AI PCs Create ‘Perfect Storm’ For 2024 Refresh
As part of CRN’s AI PC Week, Lenovo’s new North American president talks about why the rise of AI PCs combined with a need to upgrade to Windows 11 will create a ‘perfect storm’ for a 2024 PC refresh.
Lenovo’s new North American president said the PC refresh opportunity for channel partners will be “enormous” over the next two years thanks to the “perfect storm” of customers needing to upgrade to Windows 11 and the rise of computers with new AI capabilities.
Ryan McCurdy, a 23-year Intel sales veteran, became senior vice president and president of Lenovo in September, succeeding former AMD executive Vlad Rozanovich, who started leading the Chinese IT giant’s worldwide infrastructure sales in late June.
As part of CRN’s AI PC Week, McCurdy said in an interview that a critical factor for the coming PC refresh opportunity is the large install base of PCs that customers purchased over the last five or more years. In this period, there were a “lot of constraints,” including component shortages before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, that led to customers buying PCs based on what was available.
Against this backdrop, McCurdy sees two major forces that will drive many customers to buy new PCs.
The first is Microsoft’s plan to end support for Windows 10 in late 2025. This will drive customers to buy PCs that support Windows 11, which comes with increased system requirements.
“The criticality of the PC I don’t think has really ever been greater for opportunities like this. It’s a key tool in the in the commercial workplace and in the work-from-home, learn-from-home, entertain-from-home [segments], so I think it’s an enormous opportunity before you add AI,” McCurdy said.
The second factor is the rise of so-called AI PCs, which have been hyped by Lenovo and other major PC companies, including Intel, Dell Technologies and HP Inc., as a new category of personal computers that come with the ability to handle advanced AI workloads using the computer’s processor.
“Now you have this perfect storm of a [Windows] 11 refresh, and you have these emerging AI use cases that in a lot of cases will prefer and/or require modern hardware. And so I think the combination of the install base, separate from AI, is a very interesting 2024/2025 exciting refresh opportunity,” he said.
With rapid AI advancements enabling a “steady flow of emerging use cases,” businesses and individuals will want “maximum flexibility” in the capabilities of new PCs they purchase, according to McCurdy, who called this a “once-in-a-couple-decades kind of opportunity.”
When it comes to how Lenovo will compete with other vendors in the AI PC space, the executive said the main differentiation will come from the “best-in-breed” products it delivers with key tech partners from across the industry: Qualcomm, AMD, Intel and Microsoft.
“If you look at the road map of what’s announced today versus what’s coming at CES, what’s coming mid-next year and all throughout 2024, there’s going to be a steady stream of, I think, must-have and can’t-live-without type of applications and use cases across the portfolio that will require this modern hardware,” McCurdy said.
Lenovo put its AI PC ambitions on display at the company’s Tech World 2023 event in October, where it demonstrated an AI assistant—powered by a computer’s processor and trained on private, local data—that could provide a more personalized response as fast as if not faster than a cloud-based AI model.
“AI tends to get so overly used [as a term] that it can lose its meaning. As soon as you show use cases, it’s really a light bulb for folks to understand how exciting it is and a sense of urgency,” McCurdy said.
Lenovo’s AI PC Push Part Of Hybrid AI Strategy
The company’s AI PC approach is part of its new hybrid AI strategy, which involves the use of so-called public, private and personal foundation models to power AI applications across cloud and edge infrastructure as well as client devices like phones and PCs.
This strategy is key to Lenovo’s vision of enabling “AI for all,” as outlined at Tech World.
“That exponential growth that we’re all expecting from this AI market, I think we’re uniquely positioned because of that pocket-to-cloud portfolio. These products build on each other, and they create this very strong ecosystem,” McCurdy said.
On top of Lenovo’s AI PC partnerships, the company has formed alliances with Nvidia and AMD around data center solutions for developing and deploying AI applications.
“I think those who build the most robust end-to-end portfolio and also have the strongest go-to-market partnerships are going to be the ones that really see the vision of AI for all realized, and I think it’s just a very exciting sustainable growth engine for our entire business,” McCurdy said.
The executive said channel partners “will share in the entire end-to-end opportunity” because customers need trusted advisers who can help them connect all the pieces of Lenovo’s portfolio together.
“Frankly, a lot of customers want an easy button for this. Customers are looking to run their business and are looking for partners like Lenovo to do more for them, and the channel for us is critical to stitch [those solutions] together,” McCurdy said.