The FINANCIAL — Three years ago, in the early days of Windows 7, Microsoft was working with PC makers to help enhance start-up times, sleep mode, battery life and the all-around performance of PCs, and this effort continues.
According to Microsoft, Lenovo took this initiative one step further: Now in its third generation, the Lenovo Enhanced Experience (EE) has become less of a Microsoft initiative and more of the “secret sauce” behind the world’s second-largest maker of PCs.
“At Lenovo, we saw what Microsoft was trying to do, and embraced it,” says Michael Littler, director of Marketing for Lenovo’s Idea Product Group, which develops laptops, tablets and PCs for the consumer market. “We worked hard on the engineering side and achieved some excellent results in the first generation. With that success came some executive leadership for the program, and even more resources were put into the performance of our PCs.” the third generation of the program, known as EE3, has brought Lenovo to the top tier of PC performance across a number of key benchmarks. Going well beyond the scope of Microsoft’s initial efforts, Lenovo now runs proprietary software that’s enabled the company to optimize performance on the Windows 7 platform. The program stretches across Lenovo’s product portfolio, from consumer notebooks, to small business products, all the way to the enterprise-class ThinkPad line, one of the oldest brands in the PC universe.
“For each of those segments there are advantages,” Littler says. “But it’s not just the actual benefit of the PC booting faster or having a longer battery life. Those performance metrics are a symptom of the quality of the product overall.”
Littler says that focus on quality is the driving force in Lenovo’s engineering. When designing products such as the new IdeaCentre A720 all-in-one PC, which is being launched this year, Lenovo strives to put out the best-quality product possible. Then, once the product is in production, the company works to optimize the cost through sourcing the components more efficiently, to bring that product to a wider portion of the market.
“It always begins with building the best products we can,” Littler says. “For a generation, the ThinkPad line has been renowned as a quality, reliable and robust product, and we place that same priority on our consumer line.”
As an engineering manager on the Microsoft team that engages with Lenovo, Michelle Niethammer has seen that philosophy play out over the years. Niethammer’s team works with Lenovo to optimize the company’s PCs and ensure all the components work well in the Windows environment.
“They’re very focused on quality, high-performing machines, and they continually improve on performance,” Niethammer says. “They’ve really driven that into their core engineering process. They test every machine. They have certain goals that must be met or they won’t release a new design to production.”
For this year’s refresh of Lenovo’s EE3 PCs, Niethammer says Lenovo has optimized everything from BIOS to all of the drivers in an effort to get users to the desktop quickly. When it comes to battery life, Niethammer’s team has worked to evaluate which apps should load upon startup and which should be user-initiated.
“Just by moving some apps into the user action category we got about 30 more minutes of battery life,” she says. “Like removing extra weight from your car, it improves the PC’s mileage and performance.”
For EE3, Niethammer says Lenovo has also built some intelligence into the way PCs manage battery life, taking cues from user behavior. The new functionality is an example of how the PC maker has expanded on Microsoft’s foundational work and made the EE program pure Lenovo.
“If you always throw the machine in your bag after work and never turn it on until the next morning, it’ll actually learn that pattern and go into hibernate mode at the appropriate time,” she says. “About a half hour before you typically turn it on, it’ll move back into sleep, so it wakes up very quickly when you need it.”
With this year’s product refresh coming out, Littler says the Lenovo line features many of the traditional products that have made the company successful, with some new twists like the all-in-one A720. This year’s achievements in improved performance, he says, have positioned Lenovo well to deliver very fast PCs for the Windows 7 world that can make the transition to Windows 8 when it comes time.
“Windows 8 is a whole new ballgame, and we’re working closely with Microsoft’s engineers to see how we can improve and push the envelope for performance even further,” Littler says. “With the products we’re launching this year, there’s no need to wait for Windows 8 to come out. These products are some of the fastest out there for Windows 7 and will perform well on the Windows 8 platform as well.”