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China PC maker unveils line


Lenovo Group Ltd., the world's third-largest personal computer maker, introduced a line of low-priced desktops and laptops yesterday, bringing its brand outside China for the first time and injecting new competition into a market dominated by Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Lenovo's new 3000 line, with notebook prices starting at $599 and desktops at $349, is aimed at small-business customers. Lenovo has more than a quarter of that market in China, but only 5 percent in the rest of the world.

"We understand this customer set and what they are willing to pay," said Craig Merrigan, Lenovo's vice president for strategy, market intelligence and design. "The product pricing is designed to be very competitive."

Lenovo bought International Business Machines' PC business last year, including the ThinkPad laptop and ThinkCentre desktop brands, which it has sold primarily to large corporations.

Turning to the small-business market, the company believes its new line offers better value and features than rival brands, said Merrigan, who spoke at a Manhattan news conference, one of several international Lenovo events yesterday.

To emphasize how their products are different, executives touted Lenovo's "worry-free" technology, which includes software intended to simplify dealing with system updates and backups, wireless networks, viruses and computer problems.

Samuel Dusi, executive director of marketing for Lenovo's notebook unit, said the ease of use is meant to appeal to individuals and small-business customers without their own computer support staff.

That IBM-based security and maintenance technology "is an area where Lenovo has a real advantage," said Roger Kay, president of the Endpoint Technologies Associates research firm.

Kay, calling Lenovo's new pricing very aggressive, said that while the company will heighten competition for small business PCs, it is entering the field far behind its rivals.

Consumers are not the primary customers for the new PCs and are expected to account for a small number of sales, Lenovo executives said.

However, the company will likely have a consumer line in the future, targeting another market where it has room to grow, Kay said.

While Lenovo sells its PCs online and through business partners, including Office Depot in the United States, it does not have an aggressive retail strategy, Merrigan said.

The Lenovo computers introduced and displayed yesterday include the C100 series of silver-colored notebooks, which are for sale online and run on two Intel processors, the Pentium M and Celeron M. Basic models weigh 6.2 pounds and have features including 15-inch screens, built-in WiFi and a 3-in-1 memory card reader.

Lenovo plans to offer N100 series notebooks with wider screens next month and the ultra-portable V100 model in the spring. Lenovo desktop computers ship with a choice of processors from either Intel Corp. or Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Lenovo, which moved its headquarters to Purchase, N.Y., has major operations in Beijing, Singapore, and Raleigh, N.C.

The company is counting on the Olympics to generate global brand recognition. It is sponsoring the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, and plans a bigger presence at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

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