Q&A: Lenovo's U.S. chief details enterprise strategy, explains PC maker's rapid growth

Lenovo's leader in North America discusses the company's new U.S. manufacturing plant, PC industry consolidation, the BYOD tsunami and more.

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Q: What will you bring to that market that isn't already there? That's a pretty crowded, competitive market.

A: There are fewer competitors in this market than laptops. I think we can bring innovation. I think our focus on the channel and our business model will differentiate us from some of our competitors.

And I think people want more choice. Frankly, I don't think this market has many competitors and I think it's ripe to add a choice alternative to give people flexibility to decide who is bringing the best solution. Who's making sure people are continuing to bring innovation and driving what you need either as a small-medium business or a government institution or a large enterprise? We need to provide a strong alternative so we can have a more robust conversation with a lot of our customers than we can have today, specifically as we don't play as strongly on the server side.

Q: Let's talk about the transition with Microsoft and Windows. Win 7, Win 8, what do you expect the customer journey will be in the IT environment? What are people going to do?

A: I think there's a good chunk of those XP customers that have not transitioned to Win 7 yet. I expect them to seriously consider Win 8.

Q: So skip 7 and go to 8?

A: I believe, yeah. I'm not going to say everybody's going to do that. People will decide.

I'm excited about Win 8 for two reasons. One is that every study I've seen, once people use touch in a clamshell or a convertible or tablet, they really don't want to go back to the mouse point-and-click type of interface. Touch is intuitive. With a lot of people, you don't have to give them an instruction manual, you just give it to them and let them play with it.

We talked about consumerization IT. I think you're going to have a lot of end users saying: 'Hey, I want to get Windows 8.' There will be that natural pressure in the market, because they're going to have their consumer devices on Win 8 pretty quickly, and they're going to be doing touch and they're going to be loving what touch brings.

But more importantly, there will be people out there creating wonderful apps that utilize touch. It's just a different user experience. I don't know what all those apps are. We're not a software development house, but you can see where people will be coming out with touch applications that customers and enterprises are going to say: 'Wow, you know what? That actually makes my life easier and I can improve my business processes.'

Will it be service pack one, will it be service pack two? I don't know. Clearly, if you just made the Win 7 transition you probably don't want to go through another major OS transition in the near term. But there's still a good chunk of people that didn't go to Win 7 that I think need to step back and really evaluate [whether] Win 8 is right for you. I actually believe Win 8 will get a slightly higher adoption rate than the traditional OS transitions for enterprises because not everybody went to Win 7, so they have to think about Win 8.

And it is a differentiated user experience, it really is. I don't work for Microsoft so I'm not trying to oversell it, but the user experience difference is like going from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. It's such a differentiated user experience that people are going to step back and say: 'Wow, okay, how can I use that?' I'm banking on a lot of smart people out there, and a lot of the smart [players] in this world are already working on a lot of cool apps that I don't know about.

Q: Does the recent government scrutiny of Chinese company Huawei concern you at all? Could it affect your business?

A: It's apples and oranges. The reason I say that is one, we're a completely public company, been a public company forever, completely transparent. We follow rules and regulations in every country we do business. But we're a global company at the core. We're very proud of our Chinese heritage, but with the purchase of the IBM PC company, the purchase of NEC, the number one player in Japan, the purchase of Medion, and bringing that management team, [we're a global company].

Look at our board of directors, equally diverse board of directors. Our management team, a good core of Asians but an equal number of Americans and Europeans that sit on the senior leadership team, like myself. We've been publicly traded for a very long period of time, with a long history of regulatory filings and all the things that go with being a public company. The fact that we have deep U.S. roots, we have over 2,500 employees in the U.S., research and development, operations, marketing. We just announced U.S. manufacturing, and a long history of selling to government and governmental agencies without any issues.

I think at the end of the day it's not even a comparison. I know people love to write stories, but at the end of the day it's an apples and oranges.

Q: So you're not worried about any customer kind of perception issue with...

A: No. A lot of that we addressed when we did the acquisition of IBM PC company years ago. And I think the fact that we're gaining market share and we're at an all time high in market share and customer satisfaction is there. We're doing the right thing. At the end of the day, I want to focus on customers and partners and stay out of the political arena that frankly doesn't -- we're not even a part of that.

Q: You've got 30 seconds in an elevator with the CIO of Company X. What do you want them to know about Lenovo?

A: What I want him or her to know is that we still believe that there's innovation in our space and we're a company that's bringing innovation. What we want to do is come out with products that are going to help you do your job. We're going to have a solution for you as a CIO to make sure that you are accomplishing your goals at the end of the day. We will partner with you to make sure that your life is either easier or more successful because you partnered with Lenovo.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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