Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

China’s Lenovo Proves There’s Life in the PC Market Yet

There’s still life in the PC industry. For evidence, look no further than the results of Lenovo, the China-based manufacturer that bought out IBM’s PC business a few years ago.

As The Wall Street Journal reported today, Lenovo’s profits rose by 88 percent, and it eclipsed Dell as the world’s No. 2 manufacturer, behind Hewlett-Packard. The company has been growing in part through acquisitions — it recently paid 465 million euros (about $640 million) for the German PC outfit Medion — but also by playing well in markets where people are still buying their first PCs, says Peter Hortensius, the president of Lenovo’s Global Product Group.

Lenovo’s results did good things for shares of rival HP, which last week announced that it will keep the PC unit it had previously considered spinning off. Its shares rose 1.8 percent to $26.06. Shares in Dell rose more than 1 percent to $15.29, while Intel fell 17 cents, or less than 1 percent.

Hortensius told me that much of Lenovo’s strength comes from being the top vendor in the world’s leading market, China, and also in its No. 3 market, Japan. In the world’s No. 2 market, the U.S. — not so much. Lenovo is fifth there, but that’s an improvement from prior periods, he says.

Another strength he noted is in emerging markets like Brazil, where lots of people are still buying their first device and just getting their first Internet connection and not ready to think about buying tablets or smartphones just yet. But Lenovo’s a big player there, too, and sells Android based smartphones and tablets in China. It also plans to sell tablets running Windows 8 when it’s released. And as part of a four-screen strategy, he said, the company will have more to say on the subject of smart TVs soon.

What it doesn’t have, at least in the U.S. yet, is a strong brand presence. And so it has crafted a marketing campaign around “people who do.” So what do you do when you need to get attention for a less-well known PC brand? You drop a laptop out of a plane, naturally. Of course there was a technical reason for doing it: Proving that the machine could boot up in time to deploy a parachute and land safely, though I have to wonder just how soft that landing was in reality. I embedded the spot below just because it looks cool.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus