April 10, 2006 9:05 PM PDT

Best Buy to stock shelves with ThinkPads

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Lenovo has agreed to sell its ThinkPad notebooks and new Lenovo 3000 series PCs at Best Buy, in the company's largest move into the U.S. retail market since it acquired IBM's PC business, CNET News.com has learned.

The companies are expected to announce the deal Tuesday morning, sources familiar with the plans said. Lenovo already sells some PCs at Office Depot, but Best Buy is North America's largest consumer electronics retailer and the most consumer-oriented channel that a ThinkPad has seen in many years.

A Lenovo spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

ThinkPads are primarily sold to businesses. They tend to be more expensive than similarly configured notebooks sold by other PC vendors, but often come with business-friendly features such as file recovery software. The brand hasn't been marketed to consumers in several years, but Lenovo has expressed interest in selling the PCs to a wider audience since it agreed to purchase IBM's PC business in December 2004.

The 3000 series PCs were introduced in March. They are the low-cost complement to the ThinkPad brand, and Lenovo has just started to roll out these models, the first ones designed by engineers from the former IBM to bear the Lenovo brand.

Best Buy will sell 3000 series notebooks and desktops, as well as ThinkPads and Lenovo's ThinkCentre desktops, sources said. It was not clear when the new systems would become available in Best Buy's stores, or which specific systems within those brand families would be available.

The Lenovo systems will provide extra competition for Hewlett-Packard and Gateway inside Best Buy stores. PC market leader Dell does not use retail stores to reach its customers.

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Lenovo, ThinkPad, Best Buy Co. Inc., IBM PC, retailer

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