Lenovo channel chief eyes earnings, keeping number-one spot

Lenovo North American channel chief Chris Frey

Lenovo North American channel chief Chris Frey

LAS VEGAS – Depending on who you ask, Lenovo may already have the number one position in the PC market. But Chris Frey, the company’s North American channel chief, told attendees at the Varnex Fall conference here Tuesday that out of conservatism, Lenovo considers itself the world’s number-two PC maker at the moment. But that’s not where the company is focused.

“The conversation in our company is not about becoming number one, but about staying number one,” Frey told the hundreds of solution providers in attendance.

Frey walked solution providers through the company’s gains – up to 15.7 per cent worldwide market share, number-one status in the commercial notebooks space, growth of 8.4 per cent in its most recent quarter in a time when every other PC manufacturer was down, and outgrowing the crucial SMB market by some 24 per cent.

Frey highlighted some of the company’s product innovations, including the Tiny “one-litre” desktop computer, and its new ThinkPad Twist notebook, which brings the notebook-to-tablet-to-anything-in-between flexibility the company introduced with the IdeaPad Yoga earlier this year into its corporate lineup. Both products are available to Varnex partners on a one-time only deal for one demo unit for $199 (Tiny) or $299 (Twist) to get them in front of customers, Frey announced.

The promo was a response to the growth the company has seen in the Varnex community. Frey said that Varnex partners have sold 32 per cent more of its Top Seller SKUs this year compared to last.

“That means to me you placed a bet on us, on Lenovo, on Synnex, and on this community. Now it’s time we put a bet on you,” he said.

The company has managed to slim down to 10 channel programs to drive simplicity for partners, and at the same time, now has 155 channel account managers across North America to help partners.

On the program side, Frey talked up the SMB Partner Advantage program introduced earlier this year, which offers free 60-day financing through distributors. He also promoted the company’s efforts to offer spiffs and backend rebates both to solution provider organizations, and to individual reps selling Lenovo gear, an incremental investment the company has made on channel incentives. Stacking the company’s rebates and profitability programs, he said, can earn a partner up to a 20 per cent increase in profitability.

Frey also discussed the company’s plans to add 115 manufacturing jobs at its facility in Greensboro, NC, a move he said would allow the company’s partners ammo with customers who want to “buy American.” But what about “buy Canadian” customers? It’s by no means an official announcement, but Frey hinted that might happen in the future.

“We’re bringing manufacturing jobs to the United States, and someday to Canada,” he told attendees. “How many others can say that?”

And while he maintains the company’s mantra of being committed to being an endpoint client company in a time when that’s not necessarily the sexiest market to be in, he did stress two major new developments in the company’s product line that don’t fit squarely into that category.

  1. Lenovo’s joint venture with EMC/Iomega will be going live in January, a move that he said will let the company’s partners sell Lenovo servers with Iomega storage and as such, offer a more complete solution to customers. “I’m going to bring you a solution – the SMB-focused Iomega product line for you to attach to our SMB servers, I’m going to bring it to you at the right price, and I’m going to bring it to you so you can make some money on it,” he said.
  2. The company’s recent acquisition of cloud software company Stoneware, which allows secure and managed access for PCs to cloud-based resources. “Take a look at Stoneware, especially those of you in the MSP business,” Frey urged partners.

While the core of Lenovo’s “protect and attack” strategy remains focused on the PC (or rather client computing) space, he said the company’s strategy is to expand somewhat through acquisitions, “but not so many that we can’t explain what we’re doing.”