Lenovo claims number-two worldwide spot

Stefan Bockhop

Stefan Bockhop, director of channel sales at Lenovo Canada.

Amidst a worldwide PC market contraction of about a point, Lenovo finds itself growing north of 20 per cent and checking in for the first time as the second-largest computer seller in the world, second only to HP.

The accolades for Lenovo include 10 straight quarters outgrowing the market, and eight straight quarters as the fastest-growing company in the game. And now, according to both Gartner and IDC, Lenovo has passed Dell for the number-two spot.

“We’ve been chasing Dell for a while now, so it’s really nice to get there,” said Stefan Bockhop, director of channel sales at Lenovo Canada.

Americas channel chief Chris Frey, speaking at this week’s Varnex Fall Conference in Las Vegas, took it a step further, portraying the rankings as a victory for Lenovo, and for the channel, over a longtime foe.

While Dell has certainly done yeoman’s work in changing its channel stripes over the last four years, Frey shot back that partners should still consider Dell more foe than friend because of its direct sales force and professional services capabilities. Lenovo, Frey was quick to add, has neither, and does its business through the channel.

In Canada, based on preliminary IDC data, Lenovo holds down third point, “but we’re gaining significant share,” Bockhop said.

Frey said the company’s current “For those who do” branding campaign gets a lot of the credit for the growth. And one of the biggest reasons for doing that campaign, Frey said, was because of partner demand.

“You told us we have to remind customers how big we are, what our brand is,” he said of the multi-million-dollar campaign. “We’re selling our brand for you, so you can go sell products for us.”

Frey said Lenovo reached its goal point of 13.5 per cent market share in the crowded PC space two years ahead of goal with its Protect and Attack strategy.

The plan is simple – “protect” the areas that are traditional Lenovo strengths (the Chinese market, corporate sales and large enterprise) while simultaneously going after parts of the market where Lenovo has not historically been a leader – most notably the SMB space, where Bockhop reports the company is “gaining ground” with it Top Seller program of SMB products.

As it has grown, there have been significant changes to its partner program. In the name of simplicity, Lenovo has gone from 27 programs to eight while moving channel revenues from 65 per cent two years ago to 85 per cent this year. Frey said Lenovo now puts 3.75 per cent of its revenues into its partner program, up from 2.55 per cent two years ago.

And after hosting its first North American partner conference earlier this year in Las Vegas, Bockhop promised the program would be back “bigger, bolder and better” with its 2012 partner conference.

Through its growth, the company has greatly expanded its product lines, moving from primarily a laptop vendor to a company with a solid workstation line and a good position in the nascent all-in-one desktop opportunity. Expect Lenovo to get louder about those products lines after largely “stealth marketing” them in the recent past, as Bockhop put it.

Servers have proved touch, and Bockhop is quick to concede, “Our first run at this was not flawless execution,” but said the lessons learned have led to a strong server line that should be bolstered early next year.

“By February, we’ll have product that’s very appropriate for 70 per cent of the server installations that go on in Canada,” Bockhop said. “We’ll have a very competitive product with a great value proposition, and that will help us get it re-launched.”

And then there’s the tablets market, where Lenovo is taking a dual approach – there’s consumer-grade product, but there’s also a serious run at the enterprise-grade tablet, which attempts to deal with some of the IT department concerns with the BYOD case, access control, remote wiping, management and encryption tools included.

“We have a consumer tablet, and we will sell that to consumers all day long,” Bockhop said. “But when we’re talking about an enterprise tablet, it’s prudent to make sure you’ve got a device that can be supported correctly.”

Both Bockhop and Frey are eager to share their excitement that Lenovo has recently moved into the top spot in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, which measures companies for vision and ability to execute.

“Partners should keep an eye on us and look for good things to come,” Bockhop said.