Lenovo IdeaPads for US market, IdeaCentres planned for elsewhere

A Lenovo executive told BetaNews his company's strategy for its new PC brands will differ according to continent. The new IdeaPad notebooks will be exclusively for the US, while its desktop line won't have an American rollout.

Remember those three IdeaPad laptops previewed last week on Lenovo's site? Well, they'll only be sold in the US -- through Office Depot, Microcenter, and three e-tail sites. One IdeaPad will be gaming-oriented.

Meanwhile -- For the moment, at least -- Lenovo has no plans to sell its IdeaCentre consumer desktop models in the United States, although IdeaCentre will be available in some other nations, according to Kuptz. the US won't get an IdeaCentre desktop PC, but some other countries will, revealed Mike Kuptz, Lenovo's VP and general manager, in an interview with BetaNews.

Lenovo's three new 17-, 15-, and 11-inch IdeaPad consumer laptops will be sold by two retail chains and three online commerce sites -- and while the three specific models previewed on Lenovo's Web site last week will be exclusive to the US, Lenovo will also spend CES week launching different mixes of notebook and desktops PCs for 11 other countries, Kuptz told us.

"The 'Ideas' concept will connect the IdeaPad and IdeaCentre brands. But the brands will be tailored by geography," he told BetaNews.

Kuptz told BetaNews that Lenovo intends to sell its first three consumer laptops for the US -- the 15-inch IdeaPad Y510, 17-inch Y710, and an 11-inch ultramobile machine -- through Office Depot and Microcenter brick-and-mortar stores, along with three e-tail sites: bestbuy.com, tigerdirect.com, and newegg.com.

But for the future, he said, Lenovo is also eyeing selling its new consumer models on its own Web site, which already offers dozens of nation-specific sub-sites anyway, in a multitude of languages.

Lenovo is targeting all three of its US laptops at "tech savvy" users who are interested in mobile entertainment, according to the VP.

But Lenovo's 17-inch high-end model will stand out largely because of its ability to show dual displays on the same screen -- a feature aimed mostly at gamers, but also at people who want to run e-mail or movies alongside Word, for example.

In contrast to the blue, textured-weave casing of the 17-inch model, the upcoming 11-inch ultramobile machine be outfitted with a red, tendril-textured exterior, he said.

Unlike the two larger laptops, the ultramobile wasn't fully previewed on Lenovo's Web site last week, although it did get a brief mention.

Although measuring less than .7-inch high and weighing under 2.3 pounds, the ultramobile -- which is slated for availability by the end of this month -- will offer most of the same features as the other two IdeaPads, said Kuptz.

BetaNews asked Kuptz how Lenovo -- a company known until now outside of China only for its business computers -- expects to compete successfully against the likes of Acer, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard on consumer turf.

Kuptz said Lenovo will take a global orientation, basing brand recognition of its new consumer line-up on the distinctive appearance and feature sets of its line-up, a worldwide marketing campaign, and intentions to spread its reputation for solid tech support into the consumer space.

On the features side, all three of the US consumer laptops will come with "EnergyCut," a one-button capability for accelerating or decelerating power usage into three modes: quiet, high, balance, standby, and normal usage.

Customers will also have the option to change the colors of the lighting near the hinge of the laptop, and to extend the display further back from the keypad, Kuptz said.

The IdeaPads will also come with both facial recognition -- a feature that can be used either with or without a password for authentication purposes -- and proximity recognition, enabling the PC to automatically shut down when the user has left the vicinity.

The built-in camera which comes into play for facial recognition can also be employed to snap your own picture for use in a document, e-mail, or IM (instant messaging) session, for instance.

In addition, Lenovo expects to add a feature called GameZone to the high-end 17-inch laptop by the end of this quarter.

Meanwhile, Lenovo -- a company that bought out IBM's PC division back in 1995 -- considers itself well positioned for global marketing, according to Kuptz.

The company's ThinkPad business laptops and ThinkCentre business desktop machines are already being sold in 65 countries worldwide, he pointed out.

Set to start soon after CES, Lenovo's IdeaPad and IdeaCenter marketing campaign will revolve around the notion of "What do you want to do with your ideas?"

The company is also planning heavy promotion during the next global Olympics -- where, like IBM before it, Lenovo will serve as the sole supplier of computer systems.

Actually, Lenovo's decision to forego the US consumer desktop market right now is right in line with industry analysts' findings that desktop PC sales are faring better in emerging markets.

For example, in projecting a 16.7% rise in worldwide PC shipments for the fourth quarter of 2007, IDC last month predicted that desktop and x86 server PC shipments will fall 6.8% year-over-year in the US, while gaining 6.9% internationally.

Also according to IDC, however, portable PCs shipments will increase 20.7% over the same period, and international shipments of portables will soar by 29.1%.

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