Lenovo seeks to be hip 10 years after ThinkPad buy

Lenovo debuted a new company logo this week

Can a Chinese PC vendor learn to be cool?

On Thursday, Lenovo, a maker of business laptops, tried to answer that question. It brought out dance club music, a Chinese movie actress, and a retired NBA player at a company event that hailed Lenovo's new logo.

"Users need cooler, more innovative devices," said its CEO, Yang Yuanqing, while speaking at the Beijing event. "The devices need to be more capable, fashionable, and they need to have personality."

At a time when tech companies are all targeting young consumers, Lenovo is hoping it can hang around with the cool kids. The vendor is more focused on consumers than ever, in its bid to rise to the heights of Apple and Samsung, and lead in the tech market.

It wasn't always this way. Ten years ago, the then little-known company bought IBM's ThinkPad brand, in a deal that eventually helped Lenovo become the world's largest PC vendor.

Although the acquired brand gave the Chinese company much needed visibility in the U.S., the ThinkPad name has been more closely tied with the stuffy corporate world. ThinkPad laptops themselves are best known for their serious black-colored and box-shaped designs.

However, in recent years, Lenovo has been trying to amp up its cool factor with the consumer crowd. In the US, it has hired Hollywood actor, Ashton Kutcher, as a product engineer, and has also become a sponsor of the NFL.

In its latest move to appeal to consumers, Lenovo unveiled a redesigned logo that's colorful and has lettering more suitable for Internet marketing. David Roman, Lenovo's chief marketing officer, said he's been wanting to make the change for years.

"The world has changed," he said in a press briefing. Now consumers drive the market, and buy tech products that they then bring to work. This influences which IT brands companies end up buying, he added.

The Internet has also become a force to sell products, with the rise of social media and social networking services. "We have to reshape our company as an Internet-driven, customer-focused company, otherwise we would lose our business over time," Roman said.

Lenovo has debuted the new logo following two major acquisitions last year, when it bought Motorola Mobility and IBM's x86 server business. The two moves have turned the company into the world's third largest smartphone vendor, and the fourth largest server maker.

On Thursday, Lenovo held a major event in Beijing, called Tech World, to usher in a new age for the company. It invited journalists from across the globe, and showed off concept product innovations, including a dual-screen smartwatch, and a smartphone fitted with a projector.

At a press conference, the company's CEO said, "Lenovo is a very innovative company. We are trying to build this innovation image."

As for the US, Lenovo plans on expanding its Internet marketing, and its presence at retail stores there. The company has steadily managed to grow its U.S. market share in PCs to 11.8 per cent, making it the country's third largest vendor, according to research firm IDC.

Lenovo is confident in its technology, and wants to show the world what it can offer, said Lenovo North America President Aymar de Lencquesaing in an interview.

"We're not followers, we're really leading this industry," he added. "We have earned our place amongst the leaders of this industry."

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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