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Sticking to business can help Lenovo smartphones shine in the U.S.

Brad Chacos | May 28, 2013
How can Lenovo shine in a smartphone ecosystem dominated by Samsung and Apple? Easy: By sticking to its core audience of business users.

The door is wide open. Enter Lenovo.

The ThinkPhone
Businesses buy phones by the bucket load, and if Lenovo plays its cards right, it could easily transform itself into the smartphone manufacturer of choice for businesses.

First of all, an Android-powered ThinkPhone would need most of the security features built into Knox: Segregated work and play profiles, device encryption, Exchange ActiveSync and Active Directory support, mobile device management tools, VPN capabilities, sandboxed apps, and so on. You know, the basics.

Beyond that, a hefty dose of enterprise-friendly extras could make a ThinkPhone all the more attractive, and Lenovo already has templates in the form of the business software that already comes preloaded on ThinkPad machines.

LENOVOThe Lenovo Settings app in Windows 8. 

My ThinkPad Twist hybrid, for example, includes tools to schedule updates for after-hours, automatically back up data, and prevent the use of USB ports. All these features would translate well to a ThinkPhone. Other programs baked in to the Twist already seem tailor-made for handsets, such as the ability to enable specific settings dependent on your physical location or turn your device into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Cellular companies might balk at the idea of allowing a ThinkPhone to freely tether any other gadgets, but they might have fewer qualms about allowing businesses to tether their ThinkPads to their ThinkPhones using a specific Lenovo-made application. Toss in the ability to seamlessly manage your data between ThinkPhones and ThinkPad computers and you're staring at a work place winner. (Lenovo's Yuanqing told theWSJ that the company was open to acquisitions to bolster its smartphone arm. Maybe an AirDroid purchase is in order?)

A ThinkPhone would fit right into Lenovo's device offerings of laptops, desktops, servers, and mobile monitors like the one pictured above.

Finally, Lenovo could tie it all together by offering its ThinkPhones to companies in bulk, right alongside its laptops and desktops as part of a package plan. ("Oh, you're looking for a fleet of ThinkPads? We can also offer you this beautiful black-and-red ThinkPhone. The two look wonderful side-by-side, have incredible synergies, and both can be easily managed by your IT staff.")

C'mon, these things would practically sell themselves to corporate buyers.

Business is but a beachhead
Ah, but there's a potential fly in this ointment.

During a chat about Lenovo's possible phone plans earlier this year, Think brand general manager Dilip Bhatia said that the company wants to generate higher Think brand name recognition among young customers.

That's a noble goal, but it's crazy to take Apple and Samsung head-on in today's market; Witness the trail of also-rans striving to just break even in the smartphone race. Lenovo's unique position as well-rounded device supplier-the company offers ThinkPad tablets, too-give it an opportunity to shatter the smartphone duopoly and reclaim RIM's empty enterprise throne.

The ThinkPhone could be a boardroom star, but only if Lenovo takes advantage of its existing strengths and resists the temptation to muddle its brand by chasing the fleeting sensation know as "cool."


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