"There is enough room for innovation in hardware"

by Sharon Lobo    Nov 15, 2012

Amar Babu LenovoThe rise of smartphones and tablets are giving jitters to PC vendors. So it is not surprising that PC vendors are now scrambling to get their act together, so they stay relevant in today’s market. Keeping up with this trend, Lenovo recently launched its own range of smartphones. In an exclusive interaction with CXOtoday, Amar Babu, MD, Lenovo India, explains why the company has been a late entrant in the smartphone segment, and its views on being a potential player in the software space. Excerpts.

At a time when the market is saturated with a gamut of smartphone brands and with most companies luring consumers towards tablets, why has Lenovo now decided to take the plunge in the Indian smartphone market?
As a business we believe we should launch a particular line of business in China, and achieve a particular scale considering the strong brand recognition and strong distribution Lenovo has in China. And if this works, we replicate the business model out of China. On the smartphone front, as we achieved a considerable scale and success in China, we were confident that this business would work out of China, with India being the next market. We selected India due to the strength of the Lenovo brand and our presence here. We might be late entrants in this market, however I feel the smartphone revolution in India is just picking up and we are a long way away from market growth.

We did launch tablets last year, however back then we offered the Wi-Fi versions, while the demand was for 3G enabled tablets. As a result there was a gap in our product offerings, however we are looking to refresh that segment.

With the advent of smartphones and tablets, most PC companies are finding it tough to sustain growth. Hence, PC companies are gradually moving to offer software and services to stay relevant in the market. Does Lenovo share this same belief as it recently made its first software buy – Stoneware. Also in such a scenario do you see companies like Apple holding the mandate to innovate while the remaining will just follow?
Innovation is key to our overall strategy. For example, we have designed the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which uses carbon as a material and have made it 33 per cent lighter. Additionally, the in the All-in-one space, we have products that have the ability to do 10-point touch. I believe there is enough room for innovation in hardware and we will continue to innovate.

However, we still acquired Stoneware, a software company, because we believed that eventually you need the cloud to actually combine the four devices (PC, notebook, tablet, smartphone) in the eco-system so you have the ability to carry content along. Stoneware gives us this capability. We finally look at it as a user experience with performance.

With most enterprise users shifting from Blackberry devices to Apple iPhone and Google Android devices, are you planning to target these users with your smartphones?
Currently, we do not have a specific target towards the enterprise smartphone segments as per se. However, we are looking at the enterprise tablet segment where we have announced a ThinkPad tablet with Windows 8. We would eventually go the enterprise space with our smartphone offerings as and when we see enterprises would require specific solutions.

Going forward will Lenovo continue to be a company solely focused on hardware or are you also planning acquisitions in the software space?
Content and software is key part to the solution and we are clearing going to work with open software with Android as one of the options. We are also working with local software vendors how we can pre-load some of their products onto ours. However, we will not be the ones developing the software but we will have enough software capabilities to put everything together and offer a comprehensive package to our customers.

Most big names in technology bundle their own software with their hardware example Apple, Oracle, Samsung etc. Do you see Lenovo going down this path at some point in time?
We do not have any plans to build an OS, I think between Android and Windows there is enough software that is available and hence there is an application eco-system that is available to leverage on. But we still have to acquire the capability of software to integrate all of these in the most effective way to offer the best customer experience and work on the cloud. We will not be the people to make the OS or solutions but we will be the ones who will ensure it works best on our products.