Lenovo Ups Its Collaboration Game With The ‘Switzerland’ Of UC Devices

By Patrick Moorhead - June 18, 2018
Lenovo ThinkSmart Hub 700 in action

The collaboration market is on fire as of late. Technological advancements have simplified and increased the quality of video and audio services, and when combined with the increased connectedness of the conference room, huddle spaces, coworking remote working, and chat-based productivity tools are disrupting many businesses. I cover this space very closely as giants like Microsoft, Google, Cisco Systems and upstarts like Slack and Flock make their marks. Traditional PC, tablet and phone players like Lenovo are entering the space, too, as many of the underlying delivery vehicles are PC or phone-based and manufacturers see this a growth area with margins higher than its volume businesses.  This could be a big disruptor to UC companies who used too much higher margins.

Earlier this month, Lenovo announced what looks like a unique addition to its portfolio of meeting room solutions, the ThinkSmart Hub 700. The industry realized several years ago that many offices and meeting rooms were hobbled by inefficient, outdated equipment and poor connectivity with expensive services that couldn’t talk to each other. Many businesses are either in the midst of or planning on digitally transforming their workplaces, creating new opportunities and openings for the tech industry to fill. Lenovo cites a study that says as much as 92% of businesses are planning workplace transformation initiatives.  Sounds about right, especially when it comes to “future of work” initiatives designed to make workers more productive, mobile and secure. Millennialism is driving this change as this age group expects a lot more from its tech and will choose where to work based on the tech. The ThinkSmart Hub 700 represents Lenovo’s latest salvo in the battle to revamp the meeting room and gain a bigger foothold in this space. Lenovo’s new hardware and software platform for the meeting room is designed to enable users to quickly connect and share content, at the same time, from any wireless or wired device, whether it be PC, tablet or smartphone. Lenovo says the ThinkSmart Hub 700 makes pairing simple, with smart hardware with sensors that are able to detect in-room participants. I haven’t used the device yet but based on the steps the company outlined, this does look simpler. The Hub 700 sports a Dolby Audio Speaker System, with speakers that were co-designed with Dolby for volume and clarity. It also supports various unified communications platforms, such as Skype for Business, BlueJeans, Zoom, Cisco Webex and Google Hangouts, as the system is pass-through and not locked-down.  This is a big differentiator as most systems are locked into one or two services. The Hub 700 is services-agnostic Lenovo is marketing the ThinkSmart Software Platform component of the offering as an “extensive management console that drives the collaboration experience.” This is fair as it enables users to start scheduled or unscheduled meetings quickly, and offers various client applications that will further enable connecting and sharing of meeting content. It acts as a console for the ThinkSmart Hub 700, enabling administrators to maintain and deploy the device, providing meeting space telemetry and room health monitoring and reporting. Essentially, Lenovo has separated the management later from the services layer, a very interesting and unique move. The Hub 700 management console The ThinkSmart Hub 700 joins several other smart workplace offerings in Lenovo’s portfolio, which were all showcased at this month’s Infocomm 2018 conference held in Las Vegas. These other offerings include last year’s ThinkSmart Hub 500, an all-in-one device that leverages Skype Room Systems to turn any room into a Skype For Business meeting place, and the ThinkCentre Tiny with Intel Unite, a desktop solution that enables in-room wireless sharing across devices.  I should be receiving the Hub 500 soon and will do a review on it. The ThinkSmart Hub 700 looks to be a valuable addition to Lenovo’s smart workplace portfolio and at least on paper, perfect for huddle rooms. I love that it’s service-agnostic, as well. While pricing hasn’t been announced, I’m confident that it will be fair as pricing is rarely an issue for Lenovo. This is a very competitive area, but if Lenovo keeps introducing solid, unique and useful offerings like this one, I think it can become more relevant in this space. I like what I see so far. Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.
Patrick Moorhead
+ posts

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.