Today at its Accelerate Partner Forum, Lenovo announced two low priced N-series laptops designed specifically for K-12 institutions. The Lenovo N23 is a Windows model while the N42 has a Chrome OS. Both share common design features purpose-built for the K-12 market. They include a variety of ruggedized features. including reinforced ports, stronger hinges, a spill-proof keyboard, and anti-peel keys.
In the U.S, this business is managed by Rob Cato, Executive Director of North America Public Sector Sales, and a 23-year veteran of IBM and Lenovo in a lot of different roles. He led Lenovo’s initial heath care organization in North America and oversaw its rapid growth through acquisition. Early this year, Lenovo combined its health care and government business into one for the U.S. market.
The challenge in the K-12 devices market is differentiating from a pack of competitors – all the big PC OEMs and almost all of the supporting players are in it – in a market which is extremely price sensitive, so doesn’t have a lot of room to add differentiating features.
“We are really excited about with Microsoft is doing on N23, and at $USD 249, that should be a big seller for us,” Cato said. The N23 convertible has a Windows 10 OS, and an 11.6-inch multimode form-factor with four unique positions, including laptop, tablet, tent and stand.
“This is a new product category for us,” Cato said. “It is an introductory Yoga in that opening price point range. The Yoga functionality and touch are things the N23 has which the Chrome models do not. That’s part of the price delta between them.
The Lenovo N23 also has an Intel processor, all-day battery life and an HD IPS panel for crystal clear computing across a wide range of viewing angles. It is available with up to 8GB of memory and up to 128GB of storage.
While the Lenovo N42 lacks some of the Windows model’s features, it has a very important plus the N23 does not – a significantly larger screen size. The 14.0 inch screen makes it well suited to students that need a device that handles applications which benefit from the larger screen. The Lenovo N42 Chromebook comes with up to 4GB and up to 32GB of storage. It’s also less expensive, with pricing starting at $USD 199
“We’ve continued to see really strong growth with the Chrome N21/N22, where sales are up 100 per cent,” and we expect strong returns here as well,” Cato said.
Cato indicated that he thinks that these models are exceptionally well suited to meet the rigorous price/performance ratio for this market.
“It’s very important to make sure we have price points that are market driven,” he said. “How many devices can a district put in the hands of a student? We can put a very cheap device into the students’ hands, but if it doesn’t help learning outcomes we haven’t done our jobs.”
Cato also said the increased touch capabilities are more important than ever in K-12, more so than in other markets because of the nature of the apps being used.
“Touch is becoming more critical for K12 as more apps go to touch, especially in the K-5 segment,” he stated. “Customers looking at buying touch today are looking at what they will be doing in next 2-4 years, as more software gets touch enabled.” Cato also noted they can be expected to last for the same time as more expensive Lenovo devices, as they come with the same set of warranty options.
Public sector now reports to Chris Frey, Lenovo’s President and General Manager, U.S. Commercial Sales, and Cato said that’s having a positive impact, as the Combat Kits that Frey introduced into other areas of his bailiwick have come to the K-12 area. The kits are designed to make it easier for customers to choose between different form factors and features by putting all the different relevant usage models in their hands.
“Now being under Chris Frey, that Combat Kit mentality has been brought to the public sector,” Cato said. “We have just launched it for our internal sellers and it is also going out into the channel as well.”
Channel partners can expect the Lenovo N23 and N42 in June.