Lenovo Leaps Into Consumer Market Melee With New Laptops

Lenovo, maker of ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops for businesses, on Thursday announced its first globally available line of notebook PCs aimed at consumers, the IdeaPad Y510, Y710 and U110.

“Given that the consumer market represents over 40 percent of the opportunity worldwide, this is obviously a very big opportunity for Lenovo to continue to beat the market average growth rates, and we hope an opportunity for our customers as well as we intend to make products that should deliver a new level of benefits they have not seen before,” said Craig Merrigan, vice president and head of worldwide consumer marketing at Lenovo.

The new IdeaPad notebooks will make their formal debut at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas this month. The Y510 and Y710 will be available for sale in January in countries including the U.S., France, Russia, South Africa and India. The U110 will hit store shelves in April.

Entering the Fray

With its line of new IdeaPad notebooks, Lenovo, the fourth largest PC manufacturer in the world behind HP, Dell and Acer, will enter the highly competitive U.S. consumer market.

“Their entry is a sign of the times. The consumer market has been the growth engine for the industry for a while now. And now vendors that haven’t been focusing on this area are making a shift toward the consumer market,” said Richard Shim, an IDC analyst.

First came Dell with its push into the consumer market, then Acer bought Gateway to improve its standing in the home-user realm. Now Lenovo has entered the space. “This area is going to get aggressively competitive over the next year as the new guys take on the incumbents, which are HP, Toshiba and Sony as well as Apple,” Shim told TechNewsWorld.

While the hardware makers duke it out over a share of the consumer gravy train, each trying to differentiate itself from its competitors, consumers will benefit from better offerings and better deals, he continued.

“Personalization will be one of the big levers these companies can pull. Others will be price. They’ll have to get more aggressive on price and they will have to work on differentiating their configurations — coming up with different mixes and also work with the retailers to figure out how to make their products appeal to certain segments,” said Shim. “[It’s] something Lenovo will have to learn how to do over time, because HP and Apple are already very good at this.”

Other areas where Lenovo and the other computer makers will have to stand are customer support and software development.

“A lot of these guys are playing with a lot of the same parts. Whether it’s the operating system or the hard drive or the chip, they’ll have to come up with their own secret sauce to make their products more appealing and set up a relationship with the consumer to make sure they have more than one interaction with that consumer. Because the goal is to get consumers to come back to them, refer to them as their technology server,” he added.

Triple Threat

The trio of notebook PCs are a continuation of Lenovo’s line of ThinkPad PC notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops, which the company purchased from IBM for US$1.27 billion in 2005.

“They will be joined now by a lineup of products under the IdeaPad brand name, and where we have desktops they will be IdeaCentre,” Merrigan told TechNewsWorld.

Powered by Intel Centrino processors, the three systems feature cutting-edge but easy-to-use technologies such as facial recognition, Dolby Home Theater surround sound as well as dedicated gaming controls.

Veriface, Lenovo’s facial recognition application, will enable consumers to make their face their password, Merrigan said. “When you log into your computer, essentially what happens is, you sit in front of it and an embedded camera behind the monitor checks your face against the registered users and immediately lets you in — or doesn’t if you’re not a registered user. Registered users can use it to find out who has tried to log onto their system without authorization.”

The technology also allows users to leave video messages, hold video conferences and other video-related activities.

Each of the notebooks has also been Dolby-certified for sound and will feature an emblem for Dolby Home Theater. This, Merrigan explained, means that the three systems are capable of outputting Dolby Digital Sound 4+1. Both the Y710 and the Y510 have five speakers: on the left, right, front and back as well as a subwoofer on their undersides.

Lenovo has also put a heavy emphasis on the notebooks’ design, building three machines that offer consumers frameless screens, touch-sensitive control surfaces and unique textures.

“We really wanted to distinguish our products’ design and create a really family look so that when you look across these three products and those to come later you’ll have a distinctively Lenovo look,” Merrigan noted.

“One of the things that typifies that is all of the screens are what we call ‘frameless,’ so the glossy surface of the screen extends out to the edges of the top cover so there are isn’t a raised bezel around the edges. We also have some very distinctive textures. So they look very sleek, simple and elegant,” he continued.

The Specs

The Y710 is the big brother of the three systems, with a 17-inch widescreen monitor. Aimed at consumers looking for a high level of performance to meet their entertainment needs, the notebook comes with a smooth, blue, metallic finish and comes equipped with halo lighting to accent the top cover and backlit Lenovo logo.

The system features ATI graphics, WLAN (wireless local area network) connectivity, and a performance control switch with Turbo mode for maximum power, including CPU overclocking and Quiet mode for saving energy. Optional components include a Blu-ray DVD reader, and on select systems users can opt for a second, hot-swap hard drive that allows them to easily store and transfer data, as well as Lenovo’s Game Zone functionality. Game Zone, which replaces the number pad, includes enlarged directional buttons for enhanced game play as well as user-customizable buttons and a secondary display showing system information like CPU speed, dual cooler processors or a music equalizer.

The Y510 offers a black, linen-textured top cover with a 15.4-inch widescreen monitor and features integrated graphics, WLAN connectivity, an integrated camera and a DVD-RW optical drive.

Lenovo’s ultraportable U110 offers an 11-inch widescreen, weighs 2.3 pounds and is less than an inch thick. The U110 offers extended computing time with an additional battery. Users can kick the U110’s performance up a notch with an optional solid state flash drive. To prevent damage to the diminutive system, Lenovo has also included its Active Protection System, an air bag-like device that parks the hard drive to help protect data during a fall, according to the hardware maker.

The Y710 and Y510 start at $799 and $1,199, respectively.

1 Comment

  • They will lose any edge they gained with their horrid mismanagement. Laptops ordered in November 2007 have yet to be received and are currently reported to have potential delivery dates in mid-February 2008. There was no warning that delivery would take 3 to 3.5 MONTHS. This is not the first time Lenovo has been poor with their deliveries. There was the major fiasco of Spring of 2007 when the forums were filled with consumers not receiving their laptops for 3 months post order. It appears to be a pattern of behavior on the part of Lenovo – lie to and take advantage of the consumer.
    The notebook quality is poor to mid quality for the Lenovo series and although they are pricier, the Thinkpad series is dropping in quality – thus getting to the point of not being worth the investment. It is a shame as the Thinkpads were at one time the most rugged and compatible laptop out there. One could run any operating system with dependable results and minimal pain. There were minimal to no 3rd party background running applications. That is no longer the case now – the laptops come smothered in non-essential, resource hogging junk.
    We were hopeful that IBM would take some of Dell’s marketshare and force companies like Dell to honor their commitments to consumers and to place more emphasis on quality customer support.
    When IBM sold its laptop unit to Lenovo, there was a promise of continued quality and better pricing. Initially it appeared that Dell would lose marketshare, wake up and remember the reason it grew large. The marketshare of the other laptop manufactures may not be as affected as originally thought due to mismanagement on the part of Lenovo. Instead of honoring its promise, Lenovo is acting like any other cheap ‘take advantage of the consumer’ company that is out there. This will be their achilles heel.
    Dell, et al have no one but themselves to blame. Lenovo will be following Dell’s footsteps if they don’t clue in that Americans expect a company to follow through on what they advertise they offer.

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