At a Lenovo showcase event today, HEXUS.channel had the chance to chat to its VP for transactional business (i.e. everything except big corporate accounts), David McQuarrie (pictured), to get some insight into Lenovo's strategy.
Lenovo was hit heavily by the global recession, in part due to its heavy exposure to the corporate market, which essentially stopped spending on IT after Lehman. Having emerged from this difficult period, and returned to profitability, Lenovo is now determined to diversify and increase its share of the SMB and consumer markets.
To that end, we will be seeing a major roll-out of products coming from Lenovo's new Idea consumer brand, as previewed by senior VP Fran O'Sullivan to HEXUS.channel last October. In his presentation, McQuarrie made repeated references to Lenovo's presence at CES at the start of the year, but conspicuously unmentioned were the two launches that generated the most buzz at the event - the Skylight ARM-based mini-notebook and the U1 hybrid notebook/slate.
We started by asking McQuarrie what the state of play was with these devices. He revealed that Lenovo had expected its Android-based smartphone - the Lephone - to be its biggest hit at the show, and had underestimated the amount of buzz the Skylight and U1 would generate. Lenovo has originally planned to have the devices launched by now, but subsequent to CES, it had a bit of a rethink about the operating system.
McQuarrie confirmed that Lenovo is in the process of switching from its own Linux-based operating system to Android on these devices, having concluded this will improve the overall user experience. While Lenovo's experiences with the Lephone in China have given it a head-start in moving over to Android, this move will delay the availability of these devices for a further six to nine months from now.
While McQuarrie was in no hurry to single-out competitors by name, it's clear that the success of the Apple iPad has made all other OEMs have a rethink about the tablet/slate space. To that effect he revealed that Lenovo isn't necessarily sold on the hybrid concept of the U1 and is asking itself if people even want the keyboard.
What's clear is that Lenovo is fully committed to the mobile Internet market. "Mobile Internet will be huge for Lenovo in the next five years," said McQuarrie. When we pushed for more details on Lenovo's smartphone plans, he would only reveal that Lenovo plans to launch the Lephone internationally in the next 12-18 months, but in the meantime it's doing just fine in the world's largest mobile phone market.