To celebrate Chinese New Year, we’re shining the spotlight on some of our favourite Chinese and Taiwanese technology companies. Today, we’re looking at the company that kept the ThinkPad alive, Lenovo.
Back in 1984, the same year that IBM introduced the first portable PC, a Chinese businessman named Liu Chuanzhi partnered with 10 likeminded colleagues and, with just $US25,000, formed a company called New Technology Developer Inc. Four years later, as the PC took off in homes around the world, that company was renamed Legend and begun down the path to become one of the world’s leading PC manufacturers.
In 1990, Legend shifted operations from PC importer to PC maker, making PCs for the Chinese marketplace. By 1996, they became the country’s favourite PC, which happened at about the same time they launched their first Legend branded laptop. By 1998, the company had made its one millionth PC.
But ultimately, it was only in 2003 that Lenovo really became an international player. Legend launched the Lenovo brand in 2003, and in 2004, announced that they had begun discussions with IBM about taking over the company’s PC division.
This was the pivotal moment for Lenovo. The company reportedly spent $1.75 billion in the transaction, which was completed in 2005, and catapulted the company into the international market. They are now one of the world’s leading PC manufacturers, reportedly with 10 percent of the global market share of PCs at the end of 2010.
But what we really like about Lenovo isn’t their ThinkPad acquisition or their humble, Chinese roots. It’s the fact they aren’t scared to try something different. Who could forget the LePhone, their Android handset (that never made it to Australia)? Or their Skylight smartbook? Or the almost-vapourware-but-not-quite U1 Hybrid?
It’s thinking outside the box that makes a company great, and Lenovo, while distributing the box itself (in the form of the ThinkPad), also spends lots of time outside letting its creativity shine. That’s why we love ’em.