With No U.S. Launches, What Exactly Is Lenovo's Tablet Strategy?


Despite having one of the most alluring portfolios of tablet devices, Lenovo is taking a cautious, wait-and-see approach to the market and currently has no U.S. release schedule for its tablet products.

Last month at CES 2011 Lenovo turned heads with its new tablets, just as it did the year before. Yet even with the positive buzz surrounding its products, such as the LePad tablet and the IdeaPad U1 hybrid notebook-tablet device, Lenovo is holding off on releasing those products outside China.

It's a puzzling decision considering the growing landslide of tablets coming from rival computer makers such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Samsung and Toshiba, not to mention smartphone makers such as Motorola and Research In Motion.

Instead of joining the frenzy, Lenovo seems to be the only major vendor holding back, launching the LePad tablet in China only, where Lenovo's business is strongest, and observing how the device performs there before looking at expanding to Europe and/or North America.

"We don't want to just throw a bunch of tablets out there like other manufacturers," said Luis Hernandez, executive director of Lenovo's ThinkPad group, at CES. "We want to study the space first."

Lenovo, however, has been sending mixed signals that indicate anything but caution in the tablet space. Shortly after CES, Lenovo formally created a new business division called the Mobile Internet and Digital Home Group to focus on tablets and smartphones, and appointed Liu Jun, formerly president of Lenovo’s Product Group, as its new president.

Then Lenovo formed a joint venture with Japanese manufacturer NEC to expand its business in Japan. Lenovo will own 51 percent of the venture, named NEC Lenovo Group Japan, and reportedly will concentrate on smartphones and tablets in the region.

And most recently, in an interview with Bloomberg at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, Lenovo Chairman Liu Chuanzhi said his company has an "extreme focus" on tablets and smartphones, adding that these mobile devices would dominate the future of the computer market.

So what is Lenovo's mobile device strategy exactly? According to a Lenovo spokesperson, the company is employing a "protect and attack" strategy -- protecting the computer maker's core enterprise business around the world and its strong consumer business in China, while also attacking key emerging markets (tablets, smartphones, and smart TVs) and consumer markets outside China.

 

NEXT: Inside Lenovo's "Protect And Attack" Strategy