|Lenovo's initial marketing strategy appears designed to emphasize its commitment to product innovation rather than the metooism of the previous IBM laptop product line.
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The ThinkPad Tablet is more likely a calculated risk, chosen for a maximum buzz factor, as well as to send a signal to the industry that the new Lenovo doesn't plan to be just another desktop and notebook factory.
"Our strategy is innovation, quality and service and we really wanted our first product introduced to be a real differentiator," said Josh Shapiro, Lenovo's vice president of integrated market communications. "We're taking the IBM ThinkPad to what is a ThinkPad today."
To that end, the ThinkPad Tablet looks exactly like its ThinkPad notebook sibling, except that is has only one hinge on the display that allows the screen to flip up, rotate and snap on top of the keyboard. The tablet includes ThinkPad signatures such as fingerprint recognition, "airbag" hard drive protection, wireless security and rescue and recover, all in a lighter form than competing products from Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba.
Early product reviews
Initial reviews of the ThinkPad Tablet X41 have garnered raves from the likes of PC Magazine, CNET and BusinessWeek.
"Overall this is a good showcase for what the new company can do because the old company was clearly having trouble getting unique products out the door. It kind of makes you wonder what they will be bringing into the worldwide consumer market," said analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group.
This first marketing effort from Lenovo, primarily a print and Web ad campaign, draws heavily on the strong brand heritage of IBM's ThinkPad, telling consumers: "It's a drawing pad. It's a note pad. Best of all, it's a ThinkPad." Ads begin today in publications including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
Lenovo's agency, WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, created the work. Lenovo awarded its global advertising and marketing account to Ogilvy, Big Blue’s longtime agency of record, in May.
Tablet PC category
Still, great reviews withstanding, it is a risk. The tablet PC market has grown since it was first introduced in 2002, especially with the insurance, education, health care and government sectors, but software deficiencies in areas like handwriting recognition have long been cited as holding tablets back from mainstream adoption. The reward of that risk/reward scenario is that could change. Microsoft has been a big tablet proponent from the start and so reviewers maintain that with some upgrades to Microsoft's Tablet PC operating system, the market could be poised for takeoff.
That's just the payoff Lenovo hopes for. "As the operating system improves, we will be the tablet," Mr. Shapiro said.
New products for 2006
Lenovo will continue to enhance ThinkPad and ThinkCentre (IBM PC's former leading brands) through this year and then will introduce some new Lenovo products in the U.S. in early 2006. The company is also working on a corporate branding campaign that is expected in the next few months.
While the merger has gone smoothly, Mr. Shapiro said it is important going forward to establish the Lenovo brand, distinct from either the "old" Lenovo, which was China's largest personal computer maker, or IBM personal computing.