Lenovo Going After SMB With “Renewed Optimism”

Colin McIsaac, managing director, Lenovo Canada

Colin McIsaac, managing director, Lenovo Canada

The SMB space has not been Lenovo’s strongest point in the Canadian market, but the company’s Canadian managing director believes that is changing. Speaking to an audience of partners and customers at the company’s recent Product Showcase near Toronto, Colin McIsaac signaled the company’s intentions.

“In Canada, we have a large following in enterprise and public sector. In SMB and in the retail space, we don’t, but we’re attacking that space with renewed optimism we didn’t have before,” McIsaac told attendees.

The philosophy is an extension of the company’s “protect and attack” strategy, one that it has pursued for almost four years now. While “protecting” traditional strongholds in big business, the company is seeking to “attack” territories it hasn’t traditionally owned, including consumer and SMB.

Lenovo has recently taken the worldwide PC shipment crown, after jostling with rival HP for a number of quarters – in some cases, different analyst firms would assess a different champion for a given quarter. But for McIsaac, who dates back to IBM’s PC business, it’s a vindication of the company’s bravado in the days after Lenovo purchased IBM’s ailing PC business in 2005. At the time, Lenovo was a $3 billion company, and IBM’s PC business was worth $9 billion a year. Today, the combined entity finished its fiscal year with revenues of $35 billion.

“At IBM, we were never number one, our senior leaders never said we wanted to be number one, and here we were, as this unknown business, saying we wanted to be number one,” McIsaac said.

Of course, the future for any device maker at this point in time is not all about the PC. McIsaac relates the story of hearing from one of his distribution partners how a large smartphone vendor might ship 60 million phones in a quarter, while Lenovo would ship a comparatively paltry 15 million PCs in the same time period. To stay relevant, Lenovo realizes it has to “look into other markets that we haven’t been in before,” McIsaac said.

And it’s started to make that shift, slowly but surely. In North America, it hasn’t expanded too far beyond the PC, but has introduced both tablets and types of notebooks that blur the tablet/PC line. But in its home country of China, it’s an entirely different story. There, Lenovo is a strong smartphone player with an extensive lineup of Android devices. And last quarter, the company crossed an important milestone, shipping more tablets and smartphones than PCs for the first time ever.

“This is a strategy we have considered for a number of years, and started to put the pins in place for it,” McIsaac said, pointing back to the development of an $800 million facility in China for building smartphones.

It’s part of what many label the post-PC generation, but at Lenovo, they prefer a more optimistic “PC Plus” era designation. And while the full breadth of the company’s product line has yet to come to Canada, McIsaac is clear that it’s where Lenovo is heading.

“We can be very good at traditional PCs, but if that’s all I do, in that traditional marketplace, that might not be good enough,” he said.