Lenovo is pushing itself to the crest of a wave of change in how customers approach buying PCs and says savvy channel partners will find rich opportunity as those changes take hold.
Chun Lee, director of VAR sales for the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean at Lenovo, told solution providers at the Best of Breed conference in Atlanta Tuesday that partners must get out in front of the "smart office" trend.
"Smart Office is the next immediate evolution," Lee said. "And you can help your customers as computing evolves and users seek offerings focused on time, comfort and connection."
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"It's less now about the form factor, or feeds and speeds," Lee said. "It's about what's important to you. How do we connect easier? Customers are looking at the whole user experience rather than just the products themselves."
To illustrate the point, Lee shared some striking statistics. People on average have four connected devices. There are now 1.8 billion users of digital assistants. Half of millennials use live streaming. "They're sharing in real-time, and they need endpoint devices to be able to stream," Lee said. Lenovo thinks of connected devices and apps as users' "digital wardrobe."
"It's the apps, how you communicate, and with what devices and no two people are the same," Lee said. "They use different brands, there are different use cases. You have uniqueness. People want freedom, they want to bring their own device, choose their own device. Everybody wants to be free. That's the trend. Fifty percent of the workforce will be millennials by 2020, and one in three of them want the device, flexibility, mobility. Fifty-nine percent said an employer's technology is important to them. They want a personalized experience."
"That's the shifting workplace," Lee said. "Because of that, we see a big tide changing in collaboration; $11.4 billion in video communication spend by 2020."
Early next year, Lenovo will begin shipping its ThinkSmart Hub 500, a Skype video conferencing and collaboration system that is expected to sell for about $1,400, which is half the price of competing systems already on the market, Lee said.
Zac Paulson, CEO of True IT, a Fargo, N.D.-based solution provider that works with Lenovo, said the changing way customers approach IT purchases presents his firm with opportunities it hasn't necessarily had in the past.
"We're definitely seeing that millennials do not want to be strapped to traditional IT," Paulson said, "and that's cool because it means that we get to sell this type of stuff. In the past, if it wasn't driven from within, we might not have had the chance to sell it. A lot of employers in the past looked at it as extra junk. It's definitely making people think outside the box. We get a lot less 'is this possible?' and more 'this is possible, how are you going to help me work it into my business?'"
For Paulson, the primary advantage to new attitudes about IT among customers comes after the purchase, he said. "We're definitely seeing people show up after Christmas, if you will, to say I just got this, how do I make it work?"