Next week is the launch of Lenovo Technology World in China and the CEOs of Intel, Microsoft, and Baidu (likely the only company that scares the crap out of Google) will be at the event. Lenovo on paper is the only company with the breadth of product offerings and geographic presence to fully take on Apple with products that range from smartwatches and smartphones to enterprise class servers. They own the only brand that rivals Apple’s in the market with the ThinkPad and they are currently making the Nexus 6 which is the strongest technical showcase of what Android can do.
They are also the only company that has even attempted to recreate the magic of Steve Jobs as a technology spokesman using the actor/engineer/tech investor Ashton Kutcher in that roll. This is all backed up by David Roman, Lenovo’s Apple trained CMO, who has been performing brilliantly in the technology market for decades.
While completing two large-scale mergers at one time in acquiring both Motorola and IBM’s enterprise x86 server group did give them a bit of merger indigestion, they seem to be digesting the result, and the future for the company looks rather fascinating.
Let’s talk about what is coming.
The smartwatch segment is a bit of a mess at the moment and even Apple is struggling with what people really want. Clearly on iOS you have a few products overshadowed heavily by Apple’s own offering, and on the Android side you have kind of a mess with the LG, Samsung and Motorola products competing in what clearly is, at best, a confused segment.
What I think is interesting is that virtually all of these products are consumer focused given that business people could justify these products more easily. Think of BlackBerry for your wrist (Lenovo tried to buy BlackBerry but was blocked); Lenovo has a view that for a smartwatch display, bigger is better. They might even revisit this Superwatch concept that HP abandoned for the U.S. Military.
Perhaps a better idea of what’s in the works comes from Peter Hortensius whose blog suggests that the coming watch will be uniquely different and far more compelling than anything currently on the market including Apple’s offering (though, in all fairness it is a generation one product and I expect it too will advance significantly by generation three, and Peter is likely talking about a generation three product here).
Tablet sales are falling like a rock and the reason is that unlike smartphones you don’t have to buy a new tablet every couple of years, and they seem to be holding up even better than laptops do. In addition as people move to 5” and larger phones they are discovering they can pretty much do everything they do on a tablet on their phone.
What is needed is something that breaks out of the pack and does something amazing that current tablets can’t do. Lenovo is searching for that one magic thing, recently being the only vendor who has built a Pico Projector into their latest Yoga Tablet 2. Granted reviews have been mixed on this, most indicate the idea is good, just that the implementation is below where it needs to be (projector isn’t strong enough to do the job). As LEDs get more powerful and continue to drop in price, that’ll get fixed and future offerings could become your portable big screen TV in an increasingly streamed content world. A lot of the problem with enjoying your content on the road is getting your tablet or laptop to work with the TV in a hotel room—with a good projector you wouldn’t need to do that and you could actually project the TV image on the ceiling, which could be better if you are watching from the bed.
Currently Lenovo has two amazing laptops that are very different: the ThinkPad X1 Carbon with a carbon fiber case and the Yoga 3 Pro which is more like laptop Jewelry than any other product in the market. Just check out the hinge on the Yoga; no one else is doing work like that and unlike some other products, when you fold the Yoga into a tablet the keyboard locks so the result doesn’t feel funny.
Here Lenovo has led with new materials like carbon fiber to make products ever lighter and more robust, and with unique technologies like that amazing Yoga 3 hinge. With Windows 10 fast approaching Lenovo’s uniquely strong relationship with Intel and Microsoft could lead to something amazing but what that will be will likely have to wait until the Windows 10 launch.
Wrapping Up: Oh My
Lenovo has a unique set of properties and people and this means that as they pull the newly acquired companies together to create solutions, they could also come up with something unique and amazing. Considering that one of Windows 10’s capabilities, core differentiator actually, is its ability to scale, and that the ThinkPad division—when it was in IBM—created the modular PC concept, Lenovo is now the only firm of scale that could come up with a product that morphs from smartphone to laptop and beyond. That would be an amazing product and might be the quintessential Windows 10 offering.
We’ll see in the end, but be sure to watch next week as Lenovo goes through a rebirth and emerges back into the world as a very different and vastly more powerful firm.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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