Lenovo CEO aims for Motorola to dust Apple and Samsung

Yuanqing Yang talks shop with Fortune about the Google deal, US manufacturing, and big plans for Motorola.

Lenovo CEO Yuanqing Yang (left) with Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs (right) at CES in 2010. James Martin/CNET

When Lenovo entered the global PC market by acquiring IBM's PC business it instantly became a major player with PCs, building on the business-centric ThinkPad with the consumer-facing IdeaPad. Now, the company intends to do the same thing with smartphones.

Google unexpectedly announced on Wednesday that it's selling Motorola Mobility to Chinese PC giant Lenovo for $2.91 billion. While it appears to be a fire sale, with Lenovo paying less than a quarter of what Google paid for the handset vendor just a couple of years ago, Lenovo's CEO Yuanqing Yang has high hopes for the smartphone business.

Fortune reporter Miguel Helft caught up with Yang on Thursday and was able to get more information from the CEO about the background on the Google deal, as well as Lenovo's smartphone plans.

Yang described the deal with Google as a "very interesting love story." He said that Lenovo had been interested in Motorola since before Google bought the company and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt was aware of that. Finally, two months ago Schmidt contacted Yang.

"I called him back, and he asked me, 'Are you still interested in Motorola?' I said, 'Definitely.' We started to discuss it," Yang said. "Very quickly -- in just two months -- we closed the deal."

Over the past couple of years, Motorola has touted US manufacturing and has largely marketed its Moto X smartphone on this concept. While it's still unclear how many Motorola employees and factories Lenovo will keep in the US, Yang said the company doesn't necessarily intend to pull out of the US.

"In my understanding, Motorola does customization of phones [in the US]," he said. "If that is what the market needs, we will definitely keep that. It is a good model, so we may replicate that in other markets."

With Lenovo's control of Motorola, Yang told Fortune that he plans for the company to sell more than 100 million smartphones in 2015. This seems ambitious considering it's essentially double Lenovo and Motorola's sales combined for 2013.

However, the CEO seems optimistic that he can achieve this goal by continuing to work the Chinese market with Lenovo smartphones, while also expanding the Motorola brand in the US, Latin America, and Europe.

With the acquisition of Motorola, Lenovo will now become the third largest smartphone maker in the world. Yang is fully expecting the company to get in league with smartphone giants like Apple and Samsung; in fact, he plans to supersede them.

When Helft asked Yang if and when he plans to catch up with Apple or Samsung, Yang replied, "Definitely, over time. Our mission is to surpass them."

(Via Fortune).

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About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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