Synnex To Dive Into Mobile Phone Business With Expected Lenovo Partnership

Synnex plans to dive into the mobile phone business as more corporate applications are developed for the typically consumer-oriented devices.

The Fremont, Calif.-based distributor is working on a deal with Beijing-based Lenovo to activate Motorola devices on carrier networks and distribute the mobile phones to channel partners, according to Tim Acker, Synnex's vice president of mobility and connected solutions. Lenovo acquired Motorola's smartphone division from Google for $2.91 billion in October 2014.

"The carriers are looking for opportunities to expand their business beyond traditional consumer voice," Acker told CRN. "They know us as a leader in the business-to-business side of mobility and … want to take that to the next level and enable some of these voice-based devices as well."

[Related: Lenovo Looking To Double X86 Business, Partner With Synnex Around Mobility]

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The pending distribution agreement was disclosed Thursday by Aymar de Lencquesaing, Lenovo's North America president, during Synnex's Inspire North American Conference. De Lencquesaing said both sides are working to get a deal done, and Acker said closing is "imminent."

Acker said Synnex's partners are looking for opportunities to provide smartphones and other mobile devices to businesses seeking both voice enablement and traditional data capabilities. Partners can expect to see healthy demand from verticals such as transportation, where Acker said adding voice capabilities to smart-enabled, connected devices carried by truck drivers is a natural next step.

The Motorola phones will be part of Synnex's MobilitySolv business unit, which Acker said until now has been focused solely on traditional computing devices such as tablets, laptops and 2-in-1s from vendors such as Dell, HP, Lenovo and Panasonic.

Adding smartphones won't necessitate significant adjustments to Synnex's MobilitySolv practice, Acker said, as the devices will be used for very similar applications as tablets or laptops.

"I wouldn't call it a wholesale shift," Acker said. "I would call it an addition or an add on to what we've been doing so far in the mobility space."

Under the agreement with Lenovo, Acker said, Synnex will be shipping Motorola devices to partners, activating them on carrier networks and layering on products and software so that solution providers can deliver a complete solution to end users.

Synnex's leading U.S. carrier is Verizon, according to company CEO Kevin Murai, and the distributor also has wired-line relationships with AT&T and Comcast for Business.

Synnex is also in active discussions with other OEMs about carrying their mobile phones, Acker said, though Lenovo is expected to be the first agreement. Lenovo has doubled its smartphone market share over the past year, from 2.4 percent to 4.8 percent, though the vendor's market presence is ranked only fifth globally, according to second-quarter figures from market research firm IDC.

"With their ownership of Motorola and our mobility practice, we have a great deal of interest in working with [Lenovo] even deeper," Acker said.

Ingram Micro and Tech Data each derives more than 10 percent of sales from Apple, the second-biggest smartphone vendor in the world, with 14.1 percent market share. Unlike its broadline distribution competitors, Synnex does not have a distribution relationship with Apple.

Las Vegas Med I.T. entered the cellular device business through a master agent four years ago, but quickly exited after being threatened with losing access to the programs because of a lack of consistent business, said company founder and President Leo Bletnitsky.

But Bletnitsky said he's thinking about giving mobile devices a second chance now that Synnex can both source the hardware and take care of the activation.

"That is an area we're definitely interested in, but there hasn't previously been a way to do this easily," Bletnitsky said.

Although Las Vegas Med I.T.'s health-care clients normally need only two or three mobile devices, Bletnitsky said, he would love to sell mobile phones into the company's rapidly expanding construction vertical, whose new customers include a 380-person firm with a primarily remote workforce. Construction clients are typically looking for at least 50 voice-enabled mobile devices, Bletnitsky said.