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Lenovo redesigns ThinkPad for the SMB market

Three new models in its SL series of ThinkPad notebooks offer reliability and multimedia functionalities

Lenovo (Nasdaq: LNVGY) announced its new SL series of ThinkPad notebooks targeting small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), offering them reliability and multimedia capabilities while working both in and out of the office.

The introduction of the SL series marks the first major redesign of the ThinkPad product line, said Stefan Bockhop, director of channel sales at Lenovo Canada. The company is launching three notebooks to its ThinkPad line which include the SL300, SL400 and SL500 models. In Canada, Bockhop said the SL series will serve as a replacement for Lenovo’s 3000 series of notebooks, which were launched two years ago for the small business market. Outside of Canada, however, Lenovo 3000 will still be available in conjunction with the SL series of ThinkPad notebooks.

“It’s estimated that this (SMB) market will have the largest growth rate in the next couple of years,” Bockhop said. “Both IDC and Forrester have forecasted that. Lenovo 3000 did well here, but as we looked at bringing in this new (SL) product line, we found there wouldn’t be room for both of these (series) in the Canadian market.”

However, if there’s a customer opportunity in Canada in which a Lenovo 3000 notebook would be a better fit than the SL, Bockhop said the 3000 could still be brought in for the customer.

Paul Edwards, director of SMB and channel strategies at IDC Canada, said Lenovo’s notebook push into this market segment now is a timely one.

“In the SMB market, the notebook is really becoming the dominant purchase over desktop PCs,” Edwards said. “It will be all about mobility going forward and Lenovo has positioned their notebooks as solutions to address a specific market. Any vendor that’s not specifically addressing the evolving requirements of the SMB sector through their products will be missing out on an opportunity to draw (customers) in.”

After conducting research and customer feedback, Bockhop said SMBs were looking for the bullet-proof and reliable functionalities that are typically associated with the ThinkPad line. He said SMB customers want a notebook which they can use at work, and also one that can be functional when taken on the road and out of the office.

“Customers want a high definition video or optional BluRay video capability for when they’re at home or on the plane,” Bockhop said. “They want one notebook for everything.”

Resellers will be able to introduce the SL ThinkPad notebooks to both existing and new customers in the SMB space, Bockhop said. The three different model numbers represent the various screen sizes, where the SL 300 is a 13-inch screen, the SL400 is a 14-inch and the SL500 is a 15-inch screen. Bockhop said the SL series will be a part of its Club Lenovo program, which is the company’s SMB reseller loyalty rewards program. Through this, resellers will be able to earn points when they sell these notebooks, which can then be used for a variety of different incentives and prizes, he explained.

Along with the new SL series of ThinkPad notebooks, Lenovo is also making available its Lenovo Care Tools features-set, which Bockhop says comes pre-loaded on every machine. Lenovo Care Tools are tools that Lenovo believes will help SMB customers better manage their business. These tools include: Access Connection, to discover wireless connectivity, Client Security Solutions, which stores user information and passwords, Rescue and Recovery, Presentation Director to discover projectors and televisions, and System Update, which ensures the system is up to date.

The new notebooks are built on the Intel Centrino 2 chipset platform, which was launched last month for notebooks. All SL notebooks feature an optional fingerprint reader and can hold up to 4GB of memory total.

Doug Cooper, country manager at Intel Canada, said the company hopes to make available by next year in Canada its WiMAX/WiFi module, which will offer notebook users even more options for connectivity and mobility.

“We think that value proposition (WiMAX/WiFi module) is one that will resonate well with business travelers and people in the community,” Cooper said. “We think it’s important to continue our growth in the mobility space to connect anywhere.”

Bockhop said the SL notebooks come with a range of built-in wireless features, including optional BlueTooth technology. In response to being able to support WiMAX when it comes to Canada, Bockhop said Lenovo’s ready for it.

“The notebooks are ready for it,” he said. “But we don’t yet have an agreement or the support for a carrier that will be able to offer that up here. We’re very excited about these products because we think we’ll make waves and significant inroads into the SMB space moving into 2009.”

Pricing for the ThinkPad SL400 and SL500 notebooks start at $799 and are now available. The SL300 is set for availability this month.