MANILA, March 14, 2006
 (STAR) By Alma Buelva - Fourteen months after the Lenovo Group Ltd. acquired IBMís Personal Computing Division, the company has finally taken its Lenovo brand outside China with the recent launch of its first-ever Lenovo-branded desktops and laptops aimed at small business consumers.

Formerly known as Legend, the worldís third largest global PC maker is targeting the $499-$799 market for desktops and notebooks, particularly in emerging markets like the Philippines.

With this, the company hopes to improve its performance in the small to very small business market segment, which is dominated by other brands at the moment.

With an obvious effort to look less corporate than their ThinkCentre and ThinkPad brethren, the new Lenovo 3000 J series of desktops and Lenovo 3000 family of notebooks sport new ergonomic designs and colors.

More importantly, all Lenovo 3000s have been configured in order not to encumber users with too much technical operations. The machines feature a suite of Lenovo Care productivity tools to take the place of an in-house technical support that small businesses usually donít have.

Armed with its first line of branded products that tapped into the engineering and R&D talent and resources of IBM, the 20-year-old Lenovo is entering the global market with the hope of replicating its success in China where it has lorded over the PC market for almost 10 years now. This is the same game plan for the Philippines where competition among the Top 3 vendors is so unforgiving.

Last Friday, the Lenovo 3000 family of products made its local debut. As the rubber meets the road, NetWorks asked Vicky Agorrilla, Lenovo Philippinesí country general manager, how Lenovo would change the local PC landscape as it injects new strategies and price points to push the brand.

Excerpts of the interview:

NetWorks: What is the market rank of Lenovo, formerly IBM, in the Philippines in relation to other brands?

Agorrilla: Weíre in the Top 3 in the overall PC market. There are different categories like consumer notebooks and home PCs and those for the business markets. In 2005, we were not really in the small business and consumer space although we tried to offer something for this segment. But even if we were not there, we were still well-positioned within the Top 3.

Now that we have the Lenovo 3000 products, we can now address the small business and consumer marketís particular computing needs and at the same time, complete our offerings for all segments. The ThinkPad and ThinkCentre lines will stay to cater to our mid-market and large enterprise customers. We will promote both product lines when and where it makes sense to do it.

The latest IDC results look very positive (for us) in terms of percentage growth among vendors. Itís giving me reason to smile.

NetWorks: Whatís in the new Lenovo 3000 PCs that the local small business and consumer market would appreciate?

Agorrilla: I think there are good stories to tell about the composition of the product and how it really championed in China plus how we will package it. The tendency of people when thereís something new is to buy it. The products will have competitive prices, their designs are stylish and fresh, and the overall packaging Ė that includes the built-in software and tools Ė makes the products very attractive.

We will only introduce this quarter two models each for the desktop and laptop lines. As the products start to become available late this month or April, we will see what the market take-up would be.

NetWorks: Why is it that IBM will still be supporting the Lenovo lines?

Agorrilla: Because there is a five-year arrangement between Lenovo and IBM that covers technical support. It is part of the transition plan so for now we are still working very much with IBM. We are using the Services Division of IBM for technical support and we still continue the leasing facility that was there for the ThinkPad and ThinkCentre. As a matter of fact, we are also still using the sales people of IBM to help resell our products.

NetWorks: Do you already have definite sales leads for the Lenovo 3000?

Agorrilla: Yes, we have customers waiting for the Lenovo 3000. They are holding their purchase of PCs until they see our new products because they have been told these are built and designed for their type and size of companies. They will still have to evaluate the machines, of course, because they are ordering thousands. But itís good to know they are waiting and their waiting will not be in vain.

NetWorks: What comes to mind when buyers hear the brand name Lenovo?

Agorrilla: Lenovo is like French for "new," "fresh" and "rich." At least in China, people know itís the No. 1 PC company and brand. We have there like 27 percent of the market for almost 10 years. China is so big, so thatís saying a lot. There we also have servers, printers, handhelds and even mobile phones, which may or may not be brought to other countries.

There are detractors who try to put down anything thatís China-made, but the reality is almost everything now is made in China. Besides we are now positioned as a global company with manufacturing and research facilities outside China.

NetWorks: Are you confident that in the near term, Lenovo will emerge as the No. 1 PC company here as well?

Agorrilla: I think we have a good chance of doing that because the small business/consumer space is the only piece thatís missing for us to have that No. 1 position. I believe itís doable because in terms of units sold by the company that claims to be above us, Iíve seen it and itís so small. And we will do everything we can to achieve that with less than 10 people in my team.

Networks: Availability and pricing?

Agorrilla: Prices for the J100 desktop start at P46,195 (includes 17" TFT display). Prices for the C100 notebook start at P56,295.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved