Lenovo's challenge: i can, too

Updated: 2011-06-17 11:56

By He Wei and Li Luxiang (China Daily European Weekly)

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Lenovo's challenge: i can, too 

Lenovo launched its first smartphone, LePhone, last year, trying to compete with other big name smartphone makers. An Xin / for China Daily

Trusted design

For years, the company's line of high-profit margin PC laptops was based mainly on the trusted design it inherited from the purchase of IBM's PC business in 2005. In recent months, Lenovo has broken the mould with some creations that are widely considered to be worthy of consideration by devoted Apple fans.

It is considered wise of Lenovo to stay with its ThinkPad and seek to accrue a greater share in the high-end domestic PC market, because "the market is narrowed down from a handful of players (including Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, HP and Dell) to the only pair left: Lenovo and Apple", says Wang Jiping, research manager at IT research company International Data Corporation (IDC) China.

Wang says Lenovo has made a series of cutting-edge breakthroughs with the ThinkPad, including the introduction of a wide screen and a wider range of colors.

Among the company's landmark products is the ultra-thin laptop U260 ThinkPad, which has won acclaim from international PC journals for its multifaceted factors, including a satin cover and svelte frame, a first for Lenovo. It is not a Macbook Air killer yet, but it's close, critics say.

"It skillfully merged all features of its major competitors. It is designed for more rational users who crave fashion. To that extent, it is no exaggeration to say it makes a worthy rival to Macbook Air," Wang says.

Weighing 1.3 kilograms, the U260 is less than an inch in thickness and is carved out of a one-piece magnesium-aluminum alloy frame, very much like the Macbook Air, Wang says.

With a splendid keyboard that resembles that of Sony's Vaio series, he adds, the U260 has become the world's first 12.5-inch "envelope-friendly" consumer laptop giving users a 16:9 wide-screen dimension.

Other sophisticated features include a glass multi-gesture track pad and a leather-textured palm-rest. It is available in mocha brown and Clementine orange colors with a matte finish. "You would never have imagined ThinkPad being this colorful, and it is Lenovo that brought about this change," Wang says.

But a senior PC industry researcher who would only give his surname Jiang, and who works for a leading securities firm in China, was less complimentary.

Jiang argues that the U260 is placed at a disadvantage, because, for example, it operates using the old-fashioned hard disk drive, rather than the flash storage that gives the MacBook Air instant appeal.

Jiang insists this was because Lenovo still relies on the Yamato Lab in Japan, ThinkPad's major research center, which was in existence before Lenovo inked the acquisition deal.

"These so-called indigenous innovations are, in essence, tweaked foreign technologies. But as far as critical indicators go, Lenovo always fails to stand out," Jiang says.

Huang Shaoqi, an engineer at China Telecom Shanghai branch, touted Lenovo's marketing strategy. Unlike Apple betting solely on one product in the hottest contested marketplace, Lenovo is configured to provide a diversified portfolio to meet the varying demands posed by students, game players, white-collar workers and government officials.

For instance, Huang points out, Lenovo launched the Zhaoyang series, which is tailor-made for corporate clients but at a price that is on average only 70 percent of the ThinkPad.

A Lenovo user himself, Huang believes the high cost-efficiency of the Zhaoyang series has helped it win a competitive edge. "Many public procurement projects would favor such products," he says.


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