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Lenovo Launches Low-Cost PCs For Businesses

NEW YORK -- Lenovo who? Oh, the guys that make the ThinkPad laptops.

The world's third-largest PC maker is on a quest to build both market share and mindshare with its products. It's using the power of its ThinkPad lines as a launching pad.

The China-based Lenovo is also gearing up to meet No. 1 PC maker Dell in the retail space and No. 2 maker HP, while ramping up its channel reseller strategy as part of its aggressive push into U.S. business markets and the launch of lower-priced machines for businesses.

Unveiled today, the Lenovo 3000 series of desktops and notebooks includes Lenovo's first-ever branded PCs to be offered worldwide since the company bought IBM's PC division, including its venerable ThinkPad series.

The latest laptops sport AMD's Athlon and Sempron processors, and the desktops are available with Intel's Pentium M or Celeron M processors, depending on series and models.

But don't expect the PCs to compete with ThinkPads, officials said here during a press event. These machines are geared for businesses that may not have the luxury of IT professionals on staff, compared to ThinkPads, which are used by larger businesses with IT staffs to support them.

Lenovo is also a major sponsor of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, giving it a platform to showcase systems that include 5,000 desktop PCs, 350 servers and 600 notebook computers that help support major scoring and information applications for the games. Not a bad time to try to build some more mindshare with a new brand launch.

The 3000 series of notebooks and desktops offer more automated features for updating software and responding to threats, such as virus outbreaks and malware.

They offer Lenovo Care, which automatically updates its own software for the user. They also feature one-button system recovery to help the user diagnose systems and thwart failures from malicious code.

Lenovo C100
Lenovo's C100 Notebook.
Source: Lenovo

Weighing 6.2 pounds, The C series of notebooks come with built-in integrated 802.11 a/b/g wireless LAN capability, Bluetooth connectivity (in select models) and 10/100 Ethernet and modem slots.

Multimedia capabilities include speakers, integrated microphone for playing and recording audio and an integrated DVD recordable drive. Other media features include a 3-1 multi-card reader for downloading digital pictures, and six USB slots in all.

The C series notebooks are also thin: 1.3 inches. Pricing for the laptops start at $599, Lenovo said.

The J series of desktops also offer optional accessories. The J100 and J105 desktop PCs include the ThinkVision USB Soundbar and a USB fingerprint keyboard for two-factor authentication, for example.

Pricing for the J105 starts at $349, Lenovo said. Prices for the J100 desktop starts at $499.

Craig Merrigan, vice president of strategy with Lenovo, said the channel strategy is part of Lenovo's already growing presence with VARs (value added resellers (VARS) and small business dealers.

"We'll be offering financial incentives to make it easier for business partners to sell to Lenovo. It's really an expansion of those relationships to reach a new audience," Merrigan said.

Robert Galush, vice president of desktop marketing for Lenovo, said third-party software loaded on the desktops includes the Google toolbar, which is configured for searching the user's hard drive.

Lots of multimedia software is built in, too, including Corel draw and photo album features, Roxio for digital media downloads and Google Picasa for picture sharing.

Lenovo has its work cut out for it in U.S. markets.

Although it holds an estimated 30 percent share of the Chinese computer market, according to Forrester Research, the global stats are something else.

According to IDG, Lenovo holds about a 7.4 percent share in the global market overall, as of the fourth quarter, behind Dell and HP, which command the share of the market still.

Lenovo's move into the retail space in the U.S. shows how serious the company is about penetrating the U.S. market especially, said Charles King, analyst for research firm Pund-It Research.

"ThinkPads score near or at the top of ratings of business laptops," he said. "It's a very solid technology. Since Lenovo took over the company, I think they've done some very interesting things. Plus, there's a lot of residual value in pursuing business customers."