The spoils go to the speedy— in a foot race as well as in business. A prophetic yet realistic saying that rightly fits Lenovo, long being known as a PC company. In fact, it is the world’s biggest personal computer maker by sales. Like many other biggies in the computer industry, this $47-billion Chinese device maker, which has 57,000 employees in 160 countries
including a big presence in India, is coming to terms with the harsh market reality: the PC market is fast dwindling and there is a strong customer demand for new-age mobility devices such as smartphones, tablets, convertibles, wearable devices and Smart TVs. While other erstwhile computer majors are grappling with the changed market conditions to stay relevant, this Beijing-headquartered company has rolled out an aggressive business strategy in order to drive revenues in, what is known as “beyond the PC market” segment.
Lenovo Tech World 2015, the company’s first global technology event held in Beijing recently, gave a glimpse into how the company is transforming itself from a pure-play PC firm to a provider of new-age smartphones, tablets and wearable devices. Lenovo chairman and CEO Yang Yuanqing told FE: “We want to build Lenovo as the most innovative company in the world. In view of the opportunities and challenges of the new Internet plus era, we are working aggressively to transform ourselves from making mostly hardware to a combination of hardware and software services—from wearables and smartphones to tablets, PCs, servers and software and cloud services. This will spur a new wave of growth for Lenovo in the coming years.”
Analysts reckon that Lenovo’s business is built on product innovation, a highly-efficient global supply chain and strong strategic execution. A quick
recap of some of its industry-rocking moves in the not-so-distant past. Lenovo acquired IBM’s personal computer business—including the latter’s legendary ThinkPad PC brand—in 2005 and agreed to acquire its Intel-based server business in 2014. Lenovo entered the smartphone market in 2012 and is now number 3 worldwide in both smartphones and x86 servers. In January 2014, Lenovo agreed to acquire the mobile phone handset maker Motorola Mobility—including its portfolio of innovative smartphones like the Moto X and Moto G and the Droid Ultra series— from Google for $2.9 billion, and in October 2014 the deal was finalised.
Cut to present. In order to connect with a young and tech-savvy audience, Lenovo has gone in for an image makeover with a digital and social-first strategy, represented by a “Never stand still” logo. Nick Reynolds, chief marketing officer, Asia Pacific, Lenovo, outlined that there was huge market potential, especially in markets such as India, to target a younger demographic of 18 to 30 year-olds. “We want people to see us as being a company that spans different categories, that has this attitude of never stand still, that’s really focused on the Internet,” he said, adding, “as part of its new strategy, the company will be looking into honing in on being more customer centric.”
In his keynote address at the Tech World, Yang (often referred to as YY) referenced Lenovo’s creation of the convertible category in 2012 with the four-mode Yoga convertible device as an example of how hardware innovation solves specific customer pain-points and gives them new, more personal ways to interact with their devices. Lenovo also gave an inside look at some of its upcoming research and technology projects. Smartwatches are appealing for their incredible convenience, however, their small, wristwatch-sized form factor makes it challenging to display more beyond getting instant updates. Lenovo is approaching this challenge with the Magic View smartwatch concept—the first smartwatch with two screens. The second screen—the virtual interactive display—removes the limitations from the physical dimensions of the main screen. It uses optical reflection to create a virtual image and allows users to see a virtual display more than 20 times larger than the watch face display.
Beyond wearables, Lenovo explained its solution to making smartphones more usable, more PC-like, by unveiling the Smart Cast concept product. Whereas today smartphones are limited to consuming content, Smart Cast changes the paradigm by giving users a smartphone with built-in laser projector, infrared motion detector and high-performance algorithms. This first ever technology combination opens a new world of interaction: Users can project a large virtual touch screen onto a table to type with a virtual keyboard and work with specific productivity apps (calculator, drawing, note-taking and even edit in Microsoft PowerPoint).
Lenovo also demonstrated its Smart Shoes concept—one of its Internet of Things (IoT) products that leverages the cloud to tie together hardware, software and applications in a new way. The smart shoes display a person’s mood on its screen as well as track and analyse fitness data including heart beats and caloric consumption and even provide maps and directions to places.
Focus on India
Lenovo has identified India as a high growth market for the company’s future growth. “Globally, we have emerged as the No. 3 smartphone brand. In India, we are growing dramatically in the smartphone space and we expect our growth trajectory to continue with the introduction of newer models,” said Roderick Lappin, president, Asia Pacific, Lenovo. The company has introduced a slew of mobile phones, tablets and convertibles in the market. It is targeting the entire spectrum of the market—top level, premium segment, middle segment and the entry-level segment.
“Most importantly, we are looking at opening an assembly or manufacturing facility in India not only to support the Indian government’s efforts to attract local manufacturing, but also to support our customers. We are looking at product expansion and focused marketing to strengthen our market in India,” the Lenovo chairman said.
In sum total, Lenovo is taking rapid strides in its efforts to become a new-age firm of the Internet era.
(The correspondent was in Beijing at the invitation of Lenovo)