Lenovo To Sell Android Tablets This Summer, Windows Type Later

June 14, 2011 0 Comments
  • Lenovo to launch two 10-inch Android tablets this summer, one for consumers and one for business customers
  • Lenovo plans to release a 10-inch Windows-based tablet later this year
  • Lenovo likely won't have a smartphone in the U.S. market for at least 12 to 18 months
  • Lenovo sees tablets replacing netbooks and making up about 15% of the PC market, still expects PC market to grow as prices come down

By Shara Tibken  Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES via ONLINE WSJ

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Lenovo Group Ltd. (LNVGY, 0992.HK) is gearing up for the release of two Google Inc. (GOOG) Android tablets in the U.S. this summer and a Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Windows tablet later this year, the company's president said Monday, as the PC maker expands beyond its key market of China.

The Chinese computer maker, one of the world's fastest-growing PC makers last year, became a global PC player after buying that business from International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) in 2005. Lenovo since has expanded into smartphones with the LePhone--which means "Happy Phone" in Chinese--and its LePad touchscreen tablet, both of which are sold in China and use the Android operating system.

President and Chief Operating Officer Rory Read said in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires that Lenovo plans a world-wide release of a tablet for consumers early in the summer, likely July, followed by a tablet for enterprises later in the summer, likely August.

Both tablets will be 10 inches and will run the Honeycomb version of Android, Read said. They will be priced for the "mainstream" market, likely running $450 to $900 depending on their configuration, he said.

The consumer version will be dubbed "IdeaPad," while the business version--which will include a stylus for signature capture--will be branded for the ThinkPad line acquired from IBM, he said.

In addition, Lenovo will release a 10-inch Windows tablet later this year, even before Windows 8 is released, as "there was interest around that," Read said. Lenovo also will launch seven-inch tablets for certain uses "later in the cycle."

"We've really been working to tailor the experience" of our tablets, Read said. "Some of the early-generation Android devices were a little ahead of their time, and what we're doing here is making sure [our tablets] are strong. We only have one opportunity to make that first good impression."

Lenovo has been one of the fastest-growing PC makers of late, growing 27% last year, according to data tracker International Data Corp. In 2010, it had about 10% of the global PC market by unit shipments, the research firm said, placing it fourth behind Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), Dell Inc. (DELL) and Acer Inc. (ACEIY, ASIYF, 2353.TW).

The company has been benefiting from a wave of enterprise computer-hardware replacements, as well as its business in China and other emerging markets. In May it reported its fiscal fourth-quarter profit more than tripled from the previous year. It lately has been seeking to offer more mobile products like smartphones and tablet computers to boost margins.

Read said Lenovo likely won't have a smartphone in the U.S. market for at least 12 to 18 months, seeking first to gain scale in China and then spreading to other emerging markets.

"From the standpoint of smartphones, that's a very crowded space," he said.

He added the company needs to sell millions of smartphone units a year to reach the scale necessary for expansion. Read noted LePhone sales are ahead of Lenovo's original plans but he didn't provide specific details.

Meanwhile, Read expects tablets to make up about 15% of the computer market in the next three years or so, taking the place of netbooks.

"Netbooks are pretty much over," he said.

But Read said the overall PC market should continue growing as lower prices allow customers in emerging markets to afford the devices.

"The PC business is going to continue to expand and continue to grow, and especially in emerging markets it could grow very rapidly," he said. "In the client space...they're going to continue to expand significantly over the next decade. There's no doubt about it."

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