Lenovo traditionally makes channel-focused product announcements at CES as well as consumer product, and this year they announced significant refreshes of their flagship commercial devices.
At the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, the big computer OEMs typically announce refreshes of their commercial products as well as their consumer and gaming offerings. Lenovo remained true to that trend this year. The company announced new versions of its flagship ThinkPad X1 devices, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen and ThinkPad X1 Yoga 4th Gen laptops, with improvements to both look and functionality that they believe will resonate in the commercial space.
“The market is evolving with more millennials and Gen Zs in positions of power in procuring,” said Rob Cato, Lenovo’s North American channel chief. “They want the richer features and functionality. We are really listening to what customers want.”
While the commercial market will always have management and enhanced security requirements most consumers don’t care about, Cato thinks that while the distinction between consumer and commercial products is getting increasingly blurry, the ability to differentiate on quality and features has always mattered in the commercial space.
“I’ve been at Lenovo and IBM before that for just about 25 years, and I still have a passion for the products,” he said. “That applies both when they originally come from the consumer side and flows into commercial, or whether they are generated on the commercial side. That’s particularly the case in the premium product category where Lenovo has always sold.”
The ThinkPad X1 notebook originally came onto the market in 2011 with an emphasis on the ‘thin and light’ characteristic while still providing the performance of heavier machines. Cato said that fundamental value proposition really hasn’t changed.
“You have to have that balance between thin and light that enhances your mobility, and functionality for productivity,” he said. “You now have new displays which provide even better functionality and features. Our PrivacyGuard and embedded security solutions make these models more secure than ever. We are emphasizing to partners that they can now lead with that strong security message, which is something that we haven’t had in the past.”
Both the X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga feature significant aesthetic changes to their look and feel.
“The Yoga is now available in an all-aluminum chassis, which is something that Millennials and Gen Zs wanted,” Cato said. The X1 Carbon will now be available with a visible carbon fiber weave top cover, to call attention to the product’s material – and strength – that gives it its name. Aluminum is as strong as carbon fiber, but requires extra thickness for rigidity, so cannot be as light as a carbon product. The 7th generation X1 Carbon started at a weight of just 2.4 lbs, [1.08 kg] and is just 14.95mm thin. The X1 Yoga is slightly heavier at 2.99 lbs pounds (1.35kg), and is 15.2 mm thick, down 11 per cent from the previous generation.
Lenovo unveiled several important new security capabilities at their Transform 2.0 event in September, and these are built into both of the new X1 models. ThinkShield is designed to secure devices through their entire lifecycle, and includes secure BIOS and firmware development, and features like ThinkPad Privacy Guard security screens and ThinkShutter, the industry’s first laptop camera shutter.
“ThinkShutter is a feature that I love, that makes it simple to turn off your camera,” Cato said. “No more pads or sticky tape over the camera.” It’s available on both IR and HD webcam models.
Another security component, the Match-on-Chip fingerprint reader, has been enhanced. Its speed and security have been improved, and now includes Microsoft SecureBio support.
ThinkPad Privacy Alert is a unique software feature that warns users if anyone is looking at their screen. If so, it will automatically turn on ThinkPad Privacy Guard, which is enabled by a new 400 nit FHD display option in the new, brighter display. A Dolby Vision option, which adds ultra-vivid picture quality, is also available.
“The sound has also been upgraded, as it is something that customers are increasingly looking for,” Cato said. The new Dolby Atmos Speaker System has four speakers and four far-field mics, and is designed to provide a more immersive audio experience, over any headphones.
Lenovo also announced new gaming laptops, the Legion Y740 and Legion Y540, and while pre-built gaming products have historically been something that the channel has used themselves rather than sold, that line is also becoming less clear.
“We are getting more inquiries from our commercial partners about gaming solutions,” Cato said. “Some of these lines are also starting to get blurred a little bit. It comes from things such as the growth of gaming design as a future profession in education. Things like that give more of our commercial partners an opportunity to look at gaming-related solutions for their customers.”
Cato said that partners can expect to see more innovative announcements relating to the channel at Lenovo’s Accelerate event this spring. It is in Orlando this year, May 13-15.
ThinkPad X1 Carbon will be available from June 2019, with an expected starting price of $USD 1709.
ThinkPad X1 Yoga will be available from June 2019, with an expected starting price of $USD 1929.