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SmartAdvice: ThinkPad Quality Should Continue Under Lenovo

Lenovo bought the IBM brand, so it should maintain features, The Advisory Council says. Also, RFID and Internet-based collaboration will help soft-goods companies develop nimble supply chains.

Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers three questions of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to

Question A: : We've standardized on IBM ThinkPads for their high quality. Should we expect this quality to continue under Lenovo?

Our advice: Many users share your opinion about IBM ThinkPad notebook PCs, and your concerns about the effect of the Lenovo deal are understandable. We find it unlikely, however, that the features and quality of ThinkPads will decline significantly under Lenovo Group Ltd., at least for several years.

Related Links

Lenovo to Acquire IBM Personal Computing Division

Review: IBM ThinkPad T42

Lenovo is buying a lot more than market-share and manufacturing capacity. It's buying a brand with a reputation for quality and innovation. It would be short-sighted and foolish to squander that reputation. The fact that the Chinese government will be the largest stockholder, with a long-term view rather than Wall Street's preoccupation with quarterly earnings, may actually give management more flexibility to focus on product differentiation rather than on profit margins.

Although Lenovo's current stockholders (including the Chinese government) will own 81% of the combined company, in a very real sense the IBM Personal Computing Division is taking over Lenovo:

  • Stephen Ward, the current general manager of IBM's Personal Systems Group, will be CEO.
  • The world headquarters will be in New York, not Beijing.
  • The current IBM product-development team will remain in place.
  • Three-quarters of the shipments initially will be of current IBM PC products.
  • More than half the employees will be current IBM employees.
  • IBM will continue to sell and service the products.

We would view the situation differently if "IBM people" weren't going to be managing the combined company and its product development. IBM continues to have a strong corporate culture, and the new Lenovo management will bring that culture with them. As such, we expect the next generation of ThinkPads to reflect "IBM thinking" as much as the current ones.

From a customer perspective, of course, it would be a shame to see the quality and unique features of current ThinkPads disappear from the marketplace. As with any merger, the results of this one will bear close watching. If the quality of Lenovo's products decline, it will happen slowly and visibly. With IBM continuing to service these products, we see no reason to switch from ThinkPads, at least for the next few years.

-- Peter Schay

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