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Lenovo-branded PCs to make U.S. debut

After its purchase of IBM's PC business, Lenovo will use its own brand on a new line of desktops and notebooks.

Lenovo plans to dramatically expand its presence in the U.S. computer market by releasing a series of low-end desktop and notebook PCs for small businesses, CNET News.com has learned.

The company plans to hold a press conference Thursday in New York to unveil the new systems, according to sources familiar with the company's plans. The 3000 series PCs, which will use processors from both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, represent Lenovo's first major expansion into the U.S. computer market since it completed the purchase of IBM's PC business last May.

Lenovo is the world's third-largest PC seller, according to data from market researchers IDC and Gartner. But most of its historical strength lies in emerging markets such as its home base of China, and the majority of the PCs it ships are ThinkPads, a brand it acquired from IBM. The company agreed to purchase IBM's PC business in 2004 for $1.75 billion in cash and assumed debt in hopes of not only acquiring contacts at large U.S. corporations through the ThinkPads, but also to find new customers for its Lenovo-branded products.

Thursday's expected launch will mark the first of those Lenovo-branded products to emerge inside the United States, according to sources. The products will target small and midsize businesses to start, a market Lenovo tentatively embraced last year with the return of the ThinkPad brand to retail stores like Office Depot.

Lenovo's challenge will be to differentiate itself from the rest of the PC market without diluting the ThinkPad brand, one of the main assets acquired from IBM. The 3000 J series desktops will come with a choice of processors from AMD or Intel, and will start at $349. The 3000 series notebooks will use Intel's processors only and come in three categories. The C series is designed for bargain hunters at a starting price of around $599, while the N series and V series are widescreen notebooks with more features and performance. All the systems will launch during the next few months, according to sources.

A Lenovo representative could not be immediately reached for comment. The company is heavily involved in the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, where numerous Lenovo representatives are helping boost the company's presence as the official IT provider of the Olympic Games.