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Lenovo North America PC Chief: 'We've Never Had This Much Demand Waiting For Us'

Solution providers say they've been pleased with Lenovo's PC availability even in the midst of surging demand and constraints on manufacturing.

The widespread shift to work-from-home and distance learning paired with production constraints has created an unprecedented demand environment for Lenovo's PC business amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the head of the business in North America.

"We've never had this much demand waiting for us to go out and service," said Matthew Zielinski, president of Lenovo's North America Intelligent Devices Group, in an interview with CRN.

[Related: The 10 Coolest Laptops For Working From Home In 2020]

And with most of Lenovo's manufacturing in China now up and running again following the shutdown earlier this year, "I think we'll be able to get through it this quarter, from our global production standpoint," Zielinski said.

"By and large, we're back to nearly full capacity," he said.

One key element that's been enabling Lenovo to fulfill the spike in PC demand is that more customers are now open to devices powered by AMD processors, Zielinski said.

While the Intel CPU shortage has continued, "every month, we are seeing incrementally more acceptance for AMD--at the SMB level, at the corporate level, at the public sector level," Zielinski said. He noted that he was previously the corporate vice president of OEM sales at AMD before coming to Lenovo in early 2018.

At Nashville-based Computer Pros, the solution provider has seen a 10X increase in demand for Lenovo PCs since the start of the coronavirus crisis, both for work-from-home and for distance learning, said founder and CEO Joshua Boyd.

For supplying business customers, Computer Pros has largely switched its go-to PCs to AMD-based devices, such as the ThinkPad E495 and E595, Boyd said.

"What's really big right now is the AMD processor machines--because the stock is more plentiful and the price point is attractive," he said. "And Lenovo is really pushing AMD product right now, too."

Boyd also said that overall supply availability from Lenovo has not been as bad as he expected--saying that he hasn't experienced severe shortages from the PC maker. "I've definitely been pleased with them," he said.

Zielinski said that Lenovo has benefited from owning much of its own manufacturing capacity in China, which has helped with resuming production. As of early April, "we are 100 percent up and running with all of our own factories," he said. "Versus our competitors, we do have the luxury of owning more of our own supply chain. That's a bit of an advantage."

Lenovo ended up seeing the strongest growth among the top three PC makers in the U.S. during the first quarter of the year, according to research firm Gartner. Lenovo grew its U.S. PC shipments by 28.8 percent during the quarter, compared to 10-percent growth at Dell and a 13.9-percent decline at HP Inc. in Q1, Gartner reported.

"Lenovo has been better" on PC availability than HP, said an executive at a solution provider, who asked to not be identified. "We've been able to create [Lenovo] shipments by pulling together smaller quantities of similarly spec’d hardware."

At Loganville, Ga.-based CommQuest, a Lenovo Gold partner, CEO Mark Sanchez said the solution provider saw its highest-volume quarter ever during Q1 of this year. And CommQuest, which is predominantly focused on Lenovo, did not run into major issues with supply from the vendor, he said.

"I've been able to secure the things that I need for my clients," Sanchez said.

Rick White, co-founder and president of vision21 Solutions, a Gold partner of Lenovo based in Wake Forest, N.C., echoed the sentiments around Lenovo's PC availability. The availability has been crucial as the solution provider has been "swamped with opportunities" from distance learning and work-from-home, he said.

"From Lenovo, I feel like I'm getting better supply than I thought I might," White said.

Lenovo's North America PC business is expecting strong demand through the rest of the year, as well--with many businesses likely to continue making new laptop and desktop purchases for work-from-home and many schools continuing to emphasize distance learning, Zielinski said.

"I think certainly, through the third to fourth calendar quarter of the year, that's going to be a dynamic that continues to play out," he said.

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