Lenovo/NEC venture produces Lavie Z notebook, ThinkPad production in Japan

Chinese PC vendor provides insight into its joint venture with Japan’s NEC and the fruits of the tie-up

The Japan only Lavie 2 notebook by NEC which sports a compact design and magnesium alloy case

The Japan only Lavie 2 notebook by NEC which sports a compact design and magnesium alloy case

Lenovo and NEC may have combined their PC operations in Japan into a joint venture in early 2011, but what exactly attracted one vendor to the other?

According to Lenovo NEC Holdings B.V. executive chairman and Lenovo Group vice president, Roderick Lappin, the attraction for Lenovo lay in NEC’s well established brand.

“NEC has a Japan focused product line-up and technology, as well as a national sales and support network,” he said.

“For them, Lenovo’s global sales network was attractive.”

The fruits of that partnership is the Lavie Z notebook, which sports a compact design and magnesium alloy case at a 130,000 yen price tag.

“This price clearly puts the notebook in the premium bracket, but Japanese customers want well crafted premium products even if they come at a price,” Lappin said.

The joint venture means that the two companies command an overall market share in the Japanese notebook space of 25.4 per cent, which Lappin says the companies want to grow to 30 per cent in the next three years.

In the details

Although NEC had already exited numerous global markets with its PC business, the advent of the joint venture relocated NEC to only focusing on the Japanese market.

“All the customer service in Japan is carried out by Lenovo,” Lappin said.

Lappin emphasises that the joint venture only extends to NEC’s PC business and is only for Japan.

“Their PC R&D labs are owned by Lenovo, so Lenovo has the right to pick up any piece of tech that NEC comes up with and use it in their own products outside of Japan,” he said.

However, the terms of the deal means that Lenovo is unable to use the NEC brand outside of Japan.

“NEC is focused on growing in Japan, so none of their products will show up in markets such as the US or Australia,” Lappin said.

Local return

Spurred by the joint venture between Lenovo and NEC, production of selected models of the ThinkPad will begin at the Yonezawa plant in Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture from fall of 2012.

This marks the first time since the 2000’s, when IBM still had its ThinkPad business, that the locally designed notebook will be once again produced in Japan.

When asked what ThinkPad models will be produced at the Yonezawa plant, Lappin said that Lenovo had not decided yet.

Patrick Budmar travelled to Lenovo’s media event in Tokyo as a guest of Lenovo.

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