The Friday Interview: Fiona O’Brien, Lenovo

18 Aug 2006

This week’s interview is with Fiona O’Brien (pictured), country general manager of Lenovo Ireland.

How have customers responded so far to Lenovo in the marketplace?
In the early stages, all of our focus was on dealing with the customer base and ensuring they knew we were going to stand over the quality of product and support and service that they knew when it was part of IBM. Just under a year and a half down the road, not only have we kept customers we came into Lenovo with but we’ve also expanded the number of people we’ve dealt with.

Do you find you’ve had to work hard to establish what was until recently an unknown brand?
There’s been a bit of that…I’ve always said it was never going to happen overnight. Where we’ve had the most success is in using references and referrals from other businesses in the same space. We’re not targeting consumers, so we’re not seeing the need for a mass-market campaign. The space that we’re interested in is large corporates to small businesses and SMBs.

Much of the PC market in Ireland is divided between two large players; realistically how much share is up for grabs?
It’s not a lost cause. Ireland is certainly a mature market in terms of the desktop population so rather than first-time installations you’re into refresh cycles, but that offers its own challenges because then you’re up against an incumbent supplier.

There’s a trend of laptop PCs enjoying higher growth rates versus desktops; do you see this happening on the ground?
Ireland is still lagging behind on deployment of mobiles. I see volume shipments on mobile rising but there is still a substantial price gap between desktops and mobiles. When there’s a large gap, small businesses do take a step back and think whether or not it’s worth it.

What could help to change this?
We have a partnership with Vodafone where our laptops have an embedded SIM [for wireless internet access]. Vodafone came out with some aggressive tariffs on the 3G card, which was fantastic. Now with this unlimited access, it’s really freed people to work from home or on the road. If you’re talking about a consultancy or large sales force they would obviously have a higher proportion of mobiles [than desktops] but I don’t think that the price gap will be bridged to such a degree that mobiles will close on desktops in volume terms.

By Gordon Smith

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