• SIMPLIFY. EXPAND. GROW.

    SIMPLIFY. EXPAND. GROW.

    #SMB #MIDMARKET #UPPER MID-MARKET #CHANNEL
    LEARN MORE
  • HYBRID WORK IS HERE TO STAY?

    HYBRID WORK IS HERE TO STAY?

    NOT SO FAST SAYS THE DATA
    ANALYSIS
  • NEXT CHANNEL - THE FUTURE OF PARTNER ECOSYSTEM

    NEXT CHANNEL - THE FUTURE OF PARTNER ECOSYSTEM

    Networked, Engaged, Extended, Hybrid
    DOWNLOAD NOW
  • FEATURED INFOGRAPHIC

    FEATURED INFOGRAPHIC

    2021 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities, IT Challenges
    GET IT NOW
  • BUYERS JOURNEY

    BUYERS JOURNEY

    Influence map & care-abouts
    LEARN MORE
  • DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

    DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

    Delivering Connected Business
    LEARN MORE
  • SECURITY RESEARCH

    SECURITY RESEARCH

    SMB & Midmarket Security Adoption Trends
    LATEST RESEARCH
  • MANAGED SERVICES RESEARCH

    MANAGED SERVICES RESEARCH

    US SMB & Midmarket Managed Services Adoption
    LEARN MORE
  • CLOUD RESEARCH

    CLOUD RESEARCH

    SMB & Midmarket Cloud Adoption
    LATEST RESEARCH
  • CHANNEL PARTNERS

    CHANNEL PARTNERS

    Transformation or Consolidation
    LATEST RESEARCH
  • ANALYTICS & ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

    ANALYTICS & ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

    SMB & Midmarket Analytics & Artificial Intelligence Adoption
    LEARN MORE
  • 2021 SMB & MIDMARKET PREDICTIONS

    2021 SMB & MIDMARKET PREDICTIONS

    Top 10 SMB & Midmarket Predictions for 2021
    READ NOW
  • WHITE PAPER

    WHITE PAPER

    SMB Path to Digitalization - Prologue and Epilogue
    DOWNLOAD
  • COVID-19 IMPACT

    COVID-19 IMPACT

    on SMB IT Spend Growth Rates
    FULL ANALYSIS
  • SAAS RESEARCH

    SAAS RESEARCH

    US SMB & Midmarket SaaS Adoption
    LEARN MORE
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15

Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus for SMBs makes a superlative statement

I first saw and fiddled with Thinkbook Plus in November 2019. The notebook gripped my attention because of its “Think” pedigree, focus on the SMB segment and unexpected E-Ink screen on the lid. It was an intriguing pre-production prototype. Fast forward six months to June 2020. Since the last one week I have been using a fully-configured (512 GB SSD, Intel Comet Lake i5-10210U processor, 16GB memory, 13.3-inch FHD 1920 x 1080 internal screen, 10.8-inch E-Ink monochrome display on the chassis cover, finger print scanner on power button) production model. It is whimsical yet practical notebook that exudes quiet confidence of imaginative applied design. When I powered-on the notebook my synapses fired on all cylinders, E-Ink came to life which I quickly personalized. I was thrilled to see the Techaisle wallpaper and icons to browse folders, clone desktop, view emails, calendar and weather.

IT markets tend to be complex and fast-moving – but even by IT industry standards, the endpoint device market is extremely complex, and subject to significant and abrupt changes. The ‘Swiss Army Knife’ appeal of the notebook – which doubled as both a mobility device and as a content creation platform – waned, for a while and then rebounded. Tablets, not notebooks, were seen as the key productivity tool. The proliferation of operating systems and underlying architectures created opportunity for a wide range of suppliers – and confusion for a large number of IT managers who needed to integrate, support and secure these devices. The acceptance of multiple screens, coupled with the availability of new platform technologies, created a market where “endpoint devices” spanned a wide range of categories: desktops, notebooks, tablets and smartphones, thin clients, All-in-Ones, 2-in-1s and other device types. These form factors are differentiated by more than size and input technology; they move through different channels at different price points; they appeal to different kinds of buyers who use different means to learn about and source them. Buyer openness to new screen types emboldened suppliers to redefine categories, or to create entirely new device classes. ThinkBook Plus is one such example which delivers new experiences for the “worklife” SMB employee. The DNA of ThinkBook is described as “Worklife device for the modern workforce” fashioning a balance of work and life PC for small businesses.

thinkbook plus image article

ThinkBook Plus spans the needs of both small businesses which expect affordability in an appealing design and midsized firms which are demanding distinctive devices that enhance security, provide superior support but at a reasonable price.

At 17.9mm, with front edge at 12mm, ThinkBook Plus is thin and slim enough to not feel bulky despite the presence of E-Ink and weighs 3.1 lbs. It is thicker and heavier than ThinkPad X1 Carbon but then the ThinkPad is a higher premium product. ThinkPad X1 Carbon is 14.95mm thick and weighs 2.4 lbs. In comparison, Dell XPS 13 weighs 2.7 lbs. and is 12.7mm thick whereas a 13-inch MacBook Pro weighs 3 lbs. and is 15.2 mm thick. But, a ThinkBook, with most of the business specifications, is more affordable than other brands. ThinkBook is clearly positioned between Lenovo or its competitors’ consumer devices and Lenovo ThinkPad X1/X/T/L/E devices.

Lenovo has not cut any corners on battery life nor compromised on performance to incorporate an E-Ink display. The keyboard is solid and the trackpad is smooth and responsive. The signature red TrackPoint of ThinkPad is missing but a new distinctive stamped logo on the top lid implies a modern, unfussy statement. Blurring the line between business and consumer notebooks, it has its fingerprint reader in the power button and dTPM 2.0 for additional security.

While the E-Ink panel is matte glass, ThinkBook Plus is made from Iron Grey anodized aluminum.  The rounded barrel 180-degree hinges allow the notebook to lay completely flat. Unlike many modern consumer laptops, ThinkBook Plus has several ports - one USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB 3.0 Type-A Gen ports and one HDMI 1.4b port. I would have liked to see two USB-C ports – one each on either side. Battery life is rated at 10 hours and I was able to get up to 8 hours with continuous pounding on the keyboard and using Lenovo Active Pen (stylus) for E-Ink. The pen is shipped with ThinkBook. Since there is no place to holster the pen, I wish Lenovo also shipped a pen holder along with the notebook. However, the Pen magnetically attaches to either side of the notebook screen.

Straddling the line between consumer and business, work and life, ThinkBook boasts Dolby Vision for lifelike images, Harman Kardon audio for superior sound and skype hot keys for communication and collaboration. Borderless slim bezels provide great screen real estate for users like me to work on couple of documents side-by-side. The display, set at 300 nits, could have been brighter for my liking. Unfortunately, I could not connect my ThinkVision M14 as a second display due to only one USB-C port on ThinkBook Plus.

Work from home does not give too many opportunities to try and experiment with mobility-on-the-go features. Hence, during the day I worked on the ThinkBook connected to an external display through ThinkPad USB-C Dock. In the evening, I took it for spin in various rooms in my house including the backyard. I used E-Ink to jot down new ideas, musings on future technology trends as well as create and manage task lists including grocery shopping to-do-list in OneNote. The fact that ThinkBook Plus integrates with Microsoft OneNote is awesome. All my notes on the exterior E-Ink display syncs with OneNote. I became confident in my rapid note taking abilities once I got used to the amount of pressure to use on the stylus. I sometimes use the E-ink during my conference calls. The E-Ink display can be used even when the notebook is in sleep mode. Unlike the Kindle Paperwhite, the E-Ink screen is not frontlit. I hope that a future iteration of E-Ink display will also have this feature to allow for work in darker environments. Regardless, one of the best functional features is the ability to clone the desktop on E-Ink display (without opening the notebook lid). With the touch of an icon I could launch browser, open PowerPoint files, annotate, read Word documents, scroll through file folders and many other tasks. This is currently available as a trial version (which I have been using) and users can look forward to this functionality in future software updates.

There is arguably more opportunity to define net-new PC offerings today (foldables is a much-anticipated trend) than there has been for decades. There is an additional requirement on PC OEMs to segment accurately, to be in tune with the needs and preferences of target segments, and to move quickly to address new demand drivers – but there is also new opportunity to translate this acumen and agility into substantial marketing-driven success. As PCs become more capable, SMB buyers – especially the business decision makers (BDMs) who wield increasing power in IT decisions – are moving past the device itself, to a need for solutions that capitalize on the capabilities of the new units.  To date, PC OEMs have focused on building and selling screens, not the solutions that connect the screens. OEMs who understand how to connect their products to business-relevant solutions have an opportunity to differentiate those products, attracting new SMB customers and channel partners. And this is what Lenovo has set out to achieve.

In recent years, emphasis across many different PC functions have changed. Communications and information access increased in importance, and eventually became the dominant use mode for personal technology. As a result, both user requirements for devices and the market for these devices became more fragmented. Many users opt for a multi-screen approach to personal technology: they use smartphones to communicate and to consume content, PCs to collaborate and to create content, and tablets for all of these activities in varying degrees. Lenovo ThinkBook is not an attempt to replace either the smartphone or the tablet. On the contrary, BYOD (once a euphoric trend which Techaisle had rightly predicted would vanish quickly against all pundits’ prognosis) has been replaced by CYOD. Lenovo is on a path to ensure that SMB employees have access to the productivity tools that suit them best. By giving a choice to SMB IT buyers, Lenovo is simply narrowing the usage continuum: desktop PCs primarily for creation, smartphones primarily for consumption, tablets as both consumption and light content creation, notebooks for creating content and as a mobile consumption port.

ThinkBook is not an ordinary notebook. Presence of E-Ink is debatable. It is built for the SMB customer. In its first iteration it splendidly succeeds in making a superlative statement and reimagining a new modern way to multitask on notebooks.   

  0 Comments

ThinkPad X1 Carbon – a modern laptop that embraces tradition and defies description

I first used a ThinkPad in 1994 when I was with IDC in Hong Kong and had immediately taken a liking to the distinct red TrackPoint, color and feel of the laptop. I even had a docking station. It served me extremely well during my numerous overseas trips. In 1995, I switched to ThinkPad 701 with the butterfly keyboard. And when I accidentally placed my luggage on the laptop the shattered screen devasted me. I continued to use a ThinkPad till the time I joined Gartner which gave me a non-ThinkPad laptop. In my subsequent jobs I usually requested and received a ThinkPad from my workplaces.

Slightly more than a decade ago when I founded Techaisle I bought a Sony Vaio. It was a big mistake. Within a few months I switched to a ThinkPad Carbon. Why this obsession with ThinkPad? Quality, reliability, elegance.

Since early October I have been using Lenovo’s latest 7th Gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The minute I unboxed and picked-up the ThinkPad I realized I was holding a classic yet modern design. Everything from the sharply defined etched grey-red X1 logo on the chassis cover to the rubbery plastic carbon fiber weave with a textured pattern defies description. It is incredibly light, at 2.4 pounds and combined with a thin design at 0.58 inches (14.95mm) with no visible taper gives my shoulder-back combo a much-needed respite. I have found myself frequently using the leather ThinkPad X1 Ultra Sleeve (which delivers a premium feel to the X1 Carbon experience) without the need to carry a backpack when I am within a conference venue. The keyboard travel, although reduced to 1.5mm (from 1.7mm in previous models), to accommodate redefined thinness still provides familiar comfort and feedback for which ThinkPads are known for. The switched placement of Ctrl and Fn keys, as compared to most other keyboards and laptops, does throw me off.

The model that I am using is fully-configured with 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, Intel core i7-8665U CPU 1.90GHz and UHD Graphics 620 with 3840 X 2160 display HDR400 with 500 nits brightness. Lenovo promises 18 hours of battery life for a lower resolution screen but the 4K screen that I am using obviously drains battery fast. Fortunately, Lenovo’s RapidCharge technology charges the X1 Carbon up to 80% within an hour. Lenovo’s “eye care” mode reduces blue light on the screen. Lenovo also has a PrivacyGuard but is not available for 4K screens. The screen does hinge 180 degrees to sit flat on a desk but I have never really found the need to use the capability.

A key evaluation criterion for me is a laptop’s ability to contribute and enhance productivity. The screen resolution enhances the experience for sifting through huge spreadsheets of analytical information, scrolling through rows of survey data, creating data-rich PowerPoint slides, reviewing infographics and working on Power BI dashboards. When I connect the ThinkPad to an external display (Dell UltraSharp 27 Monitor - U2719D) through Lenovo Thunderbolt™ 3 Dock, the productivity and experience are amplified.

thinkpad x1 carbon

ThinkVision M14 (sold separately) is a mobile display for on-the-go productivity. I usually bring it along with me. It easily connects through USB-C, provides a tremendous utility when working on my data spreadsheets and PowerPoints on the road. The ThinkVision M14 is only 0.4mm think and weighs next to nothing and easily slides into already crammed backpack space. And yes, I have also used ThinkVision M14 with a Dell XPS 13 and Dell Latitude 7390 2in1. Even my son has used it for his work and games and brought it with him during his travels.

I may be one of the few who still use the TrackPoint. Right above the touchpad are three mouse buttons to be used in conjunction with the TrackPoint which allow me to fully rest my fingers on the laptop itself without having to repeatedly lift my palms. Although I must say I miss the touchscreen in my ThinkPad X1 Carbon configuration (4K does not have touchscreen).

Lenovo Vantage, an app that keeps the device up and running and allows for custom settings, has grown in stature and capabilities substantially in the last one year. I have enabled WiFi security, Intelligent cooling with Quiet mode, battery charge threshold to prolong battery life and always-on USB to charge even when the computer is in sleep mode or off. To turn on WiFi security I had to enable location tracking, there seems to be no way around it. So far, it has worked well despite some occasional false notifications. The ThinkPad Carbon X1 is quiet and I rarely hear the fans spinning. I am the type of person when my iPhone battery drops to 70 percent, I look for an outlet to charge. Hence, enabling always-on USB has helped me keep my devices (iPhone, AirPods Pro, Bose headphones, Ultraportable Bluetooth speaker, backup power adapters and others) connected and charged. There are more than enough ports - 2 x USB-C, 2 x USB-A and 1 x HDMI - for my obsessive-compulsive need to keep all devices charged and connected.

Needless to say, collaboration is a key aspect of any work, especially in my job profile where most collaboration is video-enabled. Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Zoom, Hangouts and Go-to-meeting are most used. When I am not using headphones or portable Bluetooth speakers for conference calls, the 4 x 360-degree far-field microphones are useful. Nobody has complained to me so far about audio quality. The webcam has had no issues and the included camera shutter is a much-needed bonus as long as I remember to slide open or close.

I must confess that I have not setup Windows Hello - neither fingerprint nor facial recognition.

It is a mistake to compare ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7 with a MacBook. Instead, it should be compared and contrasted with Dell Latitude 7400. But comparison is not the objective of my review. Both are well-positioned and have their defined target market segments. It is however important to note that PC is where work gets done. It is still the centerpiece of business productivity and buying a new laptop is likely to have a more significant impact on productivity than any other technology. Modern PCs deliver more than an incremental improvement in performance and features. ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a modern business laptop that embraces tradition and after so many years still defies description.

 

  0 Comments

Dell and Lenovo addressing SMB PCaaS purchase intent

Techaisle’s global survey of 3,996 SMBs shows that 9% of SMBs have adopted PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS) but another 32% who are aware of PCaaS are planning to adopt such. Acquisition of latest technology, potential to reduce IT support workload, and predictable costs are key reasons for using PCaaS. Awareness of PCaaS increases from a low of 21% (unweighted) among small businesses to a high of 64% within 500-999 employee size segments. Research also indicates that the dominant reasons for adopting PCaaS varies vastly by size of business. For example, the two most important reasons for small businesses to move to a PCaaS model are “move from CAPEX to OPEX to free up capital” and “allow PCs to be refreshed faster.” For the larger SMBs, typically upper to midmarket firms in the 500-999 employee size segment range, there are three important reasons to adopt PCaaS – “reduction in IT support and procurement workload,” “option to acquire latest technology faster,” and “reduction in cost of PC deployment.” Interestingly, “predictable costs” is one of the least important reasons for midmarket firms to move to PCaaS as compared to other SMBs.

Survey research also shows cloud SMBs are more likely to adopt PCaaS and refresh PCs than SMBs with an ad hoc cloud approach. Similarly, SMBs with an organization-wide mobility strategy are more open to PCaaS than those with siloed mobility initiatives.

PCaaS or DaaS is a service in which PC hardware, software and lifecycle services are offered on a price per seat per month basis for a fixed term. PCaaS usually includes configuration, deployment, support/maintenance, asset management and end-of-life decommissioning. It provides a predictable monthly pricing for the entire PC lifecycle. The service is an attractive option for the refresh of aging PCs when SMBs do not have sufficient capital for outright PC purchases, choose to use capital elsewhere, or when IT budget is diverted to other more urgent or more strategic projects.

Both Lenovo (WW top PC OEM by unit shipment) and Dell (WW top 3rd PC OEM with 25 quarters of PC unit shipment market share growth) have taken the lead on the PCaaS offering. Lenovo’s service, called Device-as-a-Service (DaaS), has been available for SMBs for over a year; whereas Dell’s service, named as PCaaS for Business, a purpose-built SMB offering, was announced in August of 2018.

techaisle dell lenovo smb pcaas snapshot

The market for PCaaS is currently at an early stage – but there is a market. The total proportion of PCs provisioned/delivered via PCaaS is still relatively small, but this is not a pure development market – an adoption beachhead has been established. Both Dell and Lenovo are creating differentiating factors.

Dell and Lenovo PCaaS differences

With great market awareness, especially in the Asia/Pacific region and globally within enterprise customers, Lenovo offers DaaS from “the pocket to the data center,” that is, from smartphones (Lenovo owns Motorola) to servers, including PCs. One of the key Lenovo differentiators is flex-pause which is specifically suited for SMBs that are subject to seasonal cycles. These SMBs can shut off their PCs, put them on the shelf for a three-month period and not be billed for when the PCs are not in use. Flex Pause is typically offered to larger SMBs who require more complex solutions and not typically available through the SMB pro store or channel. However, Flex down and Flex up is available through the channel. A second and very important differentiation is that SMBs can start with Lenovo DaaS with only one PC as compared to Dell’s minimum requirement of 20 PCs.

Another differentiation between Lenovo and Dell is Lenovo’s offering for SMBs to purchase DaaS via SMB pro store on Lenovo.com by selecting any of six pre-defined bundles that best suit SMBs’ needs. Lenovo’s bundles are very different from HP’s three - good, better, best - bundles. If an SMB’s requirements do not fit specifically into one of the three HP bundles, SMBs end up paying for more than what they would use, or they are forced to choose a “lesser” bundle thereby missing some services they really would like to have. Dell does not have any pre-configured bundles and allows SMBs to select from its full catalog of commercial PCs.

Self-purchase through Lenovo’s eCommerce SMB pro store is ideal for SMBs in the PCaaS market for 1 to 100 PC units. For SMBs considering more than 100 units Lenovo Financial Services has established a platform with its larger channel partners that allows SMB customers to purchase directly from the channel. This empowers channel partners to either resell services that Lenovo provides or add their own deployment and recovery services thereby giving the channel an opportunity to layer on their high-margin services and still receive benefits from LFS (which is able to convert the entire solution into a subscription service). Dell provides its channel partners with two options – resell PCaaS or Co-Deliver. In the resell option, partners sell but Dell delivers services that includes deployment, support and asset recovery; where as in the co-delivery option, partners must have a Service Delivery Competency before they can deliver ProDeploy Plus and ProDeploy as part of the PCaaS solution.

Both Dell and Lenovo are taking leadership positions in the PCaaS solution offering for SMBs. Lenovo has a flexible offering with many different routes to purchase but has been relatively quiet in its SMB marketing efforts. Dell has a structured yet adaptive offering with two specific routes to purchase and has begun a purposeful push into the SMB market segment.

PCaaS is quite new and both Dell and Lenovo have focused on the enterprise segment that requires deeply complex and bespoke solutions which has resulted in a relatively slower than forecast adoption by many research firms. All major PC OEMs – Dell, Lenovo and HP have gotten ahead of their skis on a slick slope. True market opportunity lies within the SMB segment, yet it is not the easiest business sector to navigate, with or without skis. “Land and expand” is an overused term in today’s IT market, but it is an appropriate description of the PCaaS opportunity. PC OEMs that can establish initial relationships with leading-edge IT mature SMB buyers can both expand within these accounts and benefit from longer-term adoption intent from less IT mature SMBs who will come to see the benefits enjoyed by their peers/competitors.

PCaaS - an answer to PC refresh deficit

With the move towards multiple screens – smartphones and/or tablets in addition to PCs – businesses have a more complex and expensive device portfolio. One effect of the increased number of devices has been that PC refresh cycles have become longer, or have faded away altogether, as SMBs react to demands for acquisition and upgrade of other devices.

The consequence of this ‘refresh deficit’ is an aging PC population. Techaisle global survey data shows that between 70% to 85% of SMBs, depending upon mature or emerging market country, have 4+ years’ old PCs and 32% to 35% of PCs are 4+ years’ old. Although between 64% to 85% of SMBs may replace older PCs, only 18% to 24% of older PCs may get replaced. The magnitude of the “older PC problem” is most pronounced in countries such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, UK, Germany, Indonesia and Brazil. Many of these countries, including the US, are ready for increasing PCaaS awareness and adoption. Increased experience and comfort with multiple types of cloud services and ability to off-load PC deployment and support workloads will enable SMBs to be more proactive in seeking PCaaS solutions by capitalizing on their understanding of cost benefits.

  0 Comments

Dell, HPE, IBM, Cisco competing for global SMB US$1 trillion IT Spend

Techaisle forecasts worldwide SMB (1-999 employee segment) IT spend will reach US$735 billion in 2021 and cross US$1 trillion in 2028, growing at 2X the global GDP rate and 3X the enterprise segment. With slightly over 72 million SMBs (excluding home-based businesses), the market segment presents itself as lucrative and yet incredibly difficult to penetrate. Within each employee-size category there exists segments by IT sophistication, cloud maturity, digital transformation strategy, SaaS adoption, cloud first to cloud selective segments. As per Techaisle survey digital transformation is on the minds of most SMBs who are expected to spend US$275 billion on DX in 2018. And 42% of SMBs have become more dependent on technology over the last 12 months for better business outcomes.

techaisle ww smb it spend forecast resized

Continue reading
  0 Comments

Search Blogs

Find Research

Blog Archive

Research You Can Rely On | Analysis You Can Act Upon

Techaisle - TA