As we recently passed the halfway mark for 2019, it’s now worthwhile to check in with some of the consumer electronics manufacturers we saw a number of devices from at the beginning of the year.

One such firm is Lenovo South Africa, with the company showcasing new notebooks and work solutions at MWC 19, revealing a fully foldable ThinkPad only last month, and having their eyes set on disrupting the local 5G and IoT landscape with their data centre/networking offerings.

To get a better understanding of what has already happened, as well as what the next six months hold, we spoke with Lenovo South Africa general manager, Thibault Dousson.

Thibault Dousson, general manager for Lenovo South Africa.

Beginning at home

For any local consumer interacting with the Lenovo brand, their first port of call will be one of the firm’s notebooks, and it’s an area that the company experienced a lot of success in at the end of last year, both internationally and in SA. It’s something that Dousson is quick to acknowledge as quite surprising, as the brand outperformed his initial expectations.

“The (PC) market is doing quite well. We’re seeing a double-digit growth in the last quarter. While a lot of people are saying that the market isn’t booming, if you look at the PC market in South Africa there’s actually plenty of growth,” he explains.

When looking at the elements helping Lenovo SA’s growth of late, Dousson points to design and value. Touching on the entry-level notebook space for example, the company is able to offer a metal chassis in a thin and light offering, whereas some other manufacturers operating in the same space can only serve up plastic models.

Shifting focus to the enterprise segment, it’s the ThinkPad X1 series that is making a significant impact.

“Our flagship is the X1. It may not sell at the same volume as some of our entry-level notebooks, but it is a very popular device for professionals,” he enthuses.

Dousson adds that the continued growth in the local PC market could see Lenovo challenging regularly for the number one spot in terms of market share within the next couple years. That said for now the general manager is playing it a little safe, and simply working to help Lenovo do the things it does best.

“We’ve changed a few things for our strategy in South Africa, where we needed to be smart in the way we sell, how we sell, and who we play with. It’s been paying off, and I’m very happy. We weren’t shooting for number, but we are very close to it,” he adds.

Looking to the edge

With the PC side of the business performing well, one of the other areas that Lenovo SA is aiming to make an impact is the data centre, and in particular with their ThinkSystem SE350 Edge Server, which Dousson says is expected to be available locally some time this month.

It holds significant value especially as South African businesses still wait for spectrum to be made available for 5G, and look to get their IoT-focused services and solutions off the ground.

“The nice thing about SE350 is that you can put it anywhere,” notes Dousson.

“As Lenovo looks to bring great technology into the country, South Africa has to start thinking about how we deploy 5G, and how do we bring that level of connectivity to as many people as possible,” he asserts.

The general manager is also intrigued by what an IoT ecosystem leveraging devices like the SE350 Edge Server can deliver for the smart home.

“If you look at the smart home, and if your internet connection is average, it’s not going to work,” says Dousson.

“If I look at what we’re trying to achieve in terms of the internet of things, it still requires the correct connectivity. If that isn’t right, your experience is going to be terrible. It’s one big part of IoT that needs to be figured out locally,” the GM adds.

A return to mobile?

The final aspect that we spoke to Dousson about revolved around the company’s local mobile business, or rather the lack thereof. A few years ago the Motorola brand (which Lenovo owns) relaunched in South Africa with a modular smartphone, but since then the firm has decided to pull out of the country on the mobile devices front.

With much being rumoured on the foldable phone side of things from Motorola, Dousson has not ruled out another relaunch locally from Lenovo.

“They (Lenovo Global) are looking for opportunities to come back, but right now there are no permanent plans,” he notes.

The GM adds that the man behind Lenovo’s global mobile strategy is also the one who oversaw Motorola’s recent renaissance in Brazil, which gives Dousson optimism that a similar approach can be adopted locally, especially in the mid-range and flagship spaces.

“If the market changes slightly in South Africa, would we be able to come back and make a success of it? I hope so,” he concludes.

In summary then it looks like Lenovo South Africa is going to focus on what it’s been getting right in recent years, namely great value for money PCs, and prepare itself for any opportunities that open up in the data centre and mobile segments.