Lenovo, best known in the United States for its ThinkPad line of business laptops, has formed a new business group responsible for developing Internet-focused consumer electronics including tablets, smartphones, and digital TVs.
Tuesday's announcement reflects the Chinese company's continued push into consumer markets beyond China. The company in 2008 launched the IdeaPad line of PCs as its first consumer products in the United States.
Lenovo did not introduce any new products in the announcement, which focused on how the new group would be organized. Liu Jun, formerly senior VP and president of the company's product group, will head the mobile internet and digital home business group. Liu is based in Beijing and will hold the title of president.
Peter Hortensius, former head of Lenovo's Think product group, will be responsible for product development in the new group. Hortensius is based in Lenovo's U.S. headquarters in Raleigh, N.C.
Lenovo and other major computer makers are looking beyond the PC to emerging mobile devices, such as tablet computers and smartphones. Sales of such electronics are expected to outpace the maturing market for desktop computers and laptops. Forrester Research has forecast that sales of tablets will more than double this year, to 24.1 million units from 10.3 million last year. By comparison, U.S. PC sales fell 4.8% year-over-year in the fourth quarter 2010 to 20 million units, as the popularity of Apple's iPad and tablets running Google's Android operating system cut into PC sales.
Lenovo is already in the tablet market. The company at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year introduced the IdeaPad Slate, a tablet with a 10.1-inch, high-resolution display. The tablet, set for release this year, will run Windows 7 and compete with the iPad and with Android tablets from Samsung, Toshiba, Motorola, and others.
The company also showcased the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid. The computer looks like a laptop, but the display is detachable, so the user can take it on the road as a tablet. When the screen is in the chassis, the computer runs Windows 7. As a tablet, the touchscreen runs Android. The new product is only available in China and Lenovo hasn't said when it would be available in the United States.