Lenovo rides smartphones into post-PC era

The China-based company is on its way to becoming a Windows ecosystem anomaly: a PC maker that can play the mobile game too.

Lenovo smartphones
Lenovo smartphones on display at CES 2013. Kent German/CNET

Hewlett-Packard couldn't navigate the industry shift to mobile even with the acquisition of Palm. Dell tried the tablet game and Android for a bit to no avail. Acer and Asus ran with netbooks as everyone else sprinted to the iPad.

To date, no Windows PC player has been able to transform from a computer maker to a smartphone player. Apple is excluded, of course, since it basically invented the post-PC era with the iPad.

Enter Lenovo. The company's first-quarter results highlight a company that has used its brand in China to become a top-tier smartphone player. Lenovo's first-quarter mobile sales were 14 percent of total revenue. A year ago, mobile revenue was a blip. The story isn't that Lenovo's mobile shares have surged. The story is that Lenovo is the first PC maker that hasn't been completely blindsided by a mobile shift. 

Rest assured, Lenovo is still a PC maker---52 percent of first-quarter revenue was laptop sales. The company reported first-quarter earnings of $174 million on revenue of $8.787 billion, up 10 percent from a year ago. Lenovo was powered by commercial sales and a unit surge that made the company the largest PC maker.

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But the real kicker is that Lenovo said its combined sales of smartphones and tablets passed PCs for the first time ever. Lenovo is the fourth largest smartphone maker and the No. 2 player in China.

Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing prefers to use the term "PC Plus" over post-PC because obviously computer system sales are funding mobile expansion. Lenovo's strategy is to use developed market strength to fund new categories.

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Simply put, Lenovo has a plan that it has been working for years. It defends China, grows in emerging markets and pushes new categories. In China, Lenovo revenue in the first quarter was $3.7 billion, up 5.6 percent from a year ago. Smartphone and tablet sales were up 76 percent from a year ago.

In Asia Pacific, Lenovo sales were $1.3 billion in the first quarter, and EMEA sales surged 18 percent to $1.9 billion. Americas revenue was $1.9 billion, up 29 percent from the first quarter a year ago, powered by Brazil and enterprise strength in the U.S.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Lenovo navigates post-PC era, becomes smartphone player.

 

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