Lenovo likely to abandon changes to ThinkPad

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Bill Amelio, chief executive of Lenovo, has indicated that the company’s efforts to update the look and feel of the iconic IBM ThinkPad brand of notebooks had not been well received by customers, and were likely to be abandoned.

Lenovo, which acquired the ThinkPad brand as part of its $1.75bn acquisition of IBM’s personal computer division in 2005, launched a titanium-clad oblong ThinkPad with a wide multimedia display last summer, the first non-black model in the range.

However, Mr Amelio told the Financial Times that corporate IT managers, who form the core of the ThinkPad customer base, had not reacted well to changes to the classic square black design, which has remained the same since 1992.

“We’ve had a lot of feedback. The CIOs [chief information officers] that we deal with like to have this system the way it is, and by putting different colours or models in can create some angst,” he said.

Any further changes to the ThinkPad would be handled differently in the future, Mr Amelio said.

“If we are going to do something with the ThinkPad in the consumer space, it may be that we bring it under the Lenovo brand.”

Mr Amelio said the Lenovo brand of computers, which it has recently begun to sell outside the company’s core market in China, would be where it offers rapidly changing models of notebooks.

Though he may be reluctant to change the ThinkPad product, Mr Amelio indicated he was more open to changing Lenovo’s sales model, and would consider selling more computers directly to consumers over the internet as Dell does.

Lenovo and IBM have traditionally sold most of their PCs through resellers. But Mr Amelio, who spent five years at Dell before taking the chief executive role at Lenovo, would not rule out increasing its use of a Dell direct-sales model.

“Whatever customers want we will be there to provide it.

“If the customer wants us to go through a partner we will go through a partner, if the customer wants us to be direct we will be direct,” he said.

Lenovo sells a small number of computers directly to customers through local websites, including those in the US, Canada, Australia and India. However, this model is not used everywhere.

Mr Amelio said the company was still aiming to be “channel-friendly” and to work closely with its resellers.

However, where it was more efficient to serve the customer direct, the company would do so.

“I’m not too keen what part of the value chain I have to go operate on, all I know is that I have to be the most efficient I possibly can in delivering value to the customer,” he said.

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