Lenovo Preps Partners for Higher Ed, Government Sales Push
While CES, winding down this week in Las Vegas, is primarily a consumer trade show, that didn’t stop Lenovo from introducing new commercial products — most prominently, new additions to the vendor’s flagship ThinkPad X1 line, in addition to dazzling attendees with new consumer offers.
More specifically, Lenovo announced the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen and ThinkPad X1 Yoga 4th Gen. The vendor also expanded its portfolio with new visual and peripheral solutions and accessories.
“One of our core strategies is to use our extensive customer insight to develop new designs and offer a wider choice, as seen in our X1 line. For years, our customers have been asking for an all-aluminum ThinkPad and we’ve been studying metal materials to determine the right timing and right process to deliver the quality that ThinkPad customer expect,” said Cristian Teismann, senior vice president and general manager of Lenovo’s commercial business segment.
To find out how these new products fit into Lenovo’s partner strategy for the upcoming year, and the vendor’s strategic objectives for 2019, Channel Futures caught up with Rob Cato, executive director North America channels at Lenovo.
Channel Futures: For starters, tell us how the new ThinkPad X1 products create opportunities for Lenovo partners.
Rob Cato: This gives partners the ability to continue to sell the most innovative, quality and reliable system in the market. A lot of the time, people associate the ThinkPad with the enterprise space, and certainly, when it comes to who is No. 1 in that large enterprise market around mobile systems, Lenovo is certainly that, but our SMB customers are gravitating to richer, premium products as well.
When you look at the SMB customer, we’re starting to see a lot of opportunity — and this is where the channel is playing a huge role for us in reaching out to those SMB customers. So it’s critical to us that [partners] understand the features around these products so that they can reach that SMB customer.
We continue to see opportunity as we get into the education [vertical] and state and local government markets. These are areas that we’re investing in this year.
(In October, IDC reported that Lenovo claimed the top spot in the PC market – desktop, notebook, and workstation – for the third quarter of 2018.)
CF: Provide some more details about these two new vertical-market opportunities for partners.
RC: In 2019, we’re going to drive more of the ThinkPad X1 products into that [education and state and local government] market. Higher-education customers are looking for new and different options, and certain our new products offer that. One of the unique features on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga product that we haven’t had in the past is an aluminum finish, which gives a little bit of different look and feel compared to traditional black box that we had in the ThinkPad line. Certainly, in higher education and millennial generation or generation Z, [they’re] looking for something with a different look and feel and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga offers that.
CF: 2018 certainly was a tumultuous year for Lenovo partners — Sammy Kinlaw, your predecessor, resigned and Lenovo’s president of North America business, Emilio Ghilardi, departed and was replaced with Matthew Zielinski. When you and I spoke in May 2018, you said that regaining partners’ trust was a top priority. Have you regained partner trust? Also, what’s in store for partners in 2019?
RC: I’ve been excited about …