Matt Codrington is Lenovo’s Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand. He spoke to GadgetGuy about where this growing tech giant is heading – and it is all up!
Let’s look at a very brief history of Lenovo – Eastern speak for connected thinking.
In late 1984 a group of members of the Institute of Computing Technology attached to the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ started an electronics company initially to import TV sets. It failed, and the next venture was to develop a circuit board that would allow IBM-compatible personal computers to process Chinese characters. That did better.
Early in its development, the ‘scientists’ realised that the ‘build it and they will come’ mantra was not working and “marketing and other factors were part of the eventual success of a product.”
By 1990 Lenovo was producing PCs, and its trajectory was set. Part of that was to float the company and adopt Western-style accounting and business practices helping it to become a global player.
In 2005 Lenovo, then still a fairly small player and not well-known outside of China, acquired IBM’s PC business for US$1.25 billion. It now owns IBM names like Idea/ThinkPad/Station/Server as well as distribution rights for PCs to IBM’s customer base.
In 2014, IBM sold its System X and BladeCenter server business to Lenovo, and that kickstarted its own Data Centre business.
It is a great case study about a minnow swallowing a much bigger fish and how to combine Eastern and Western Culture successfully.
Along the way, it has had both organic growth and growth by acquisition. It merged or acquired patents and technology from NEC, CCE Brazil (PC maker), Stoneware (Cloud), EMC (enterprise Storage), DataCore (I/O and storage), Fujitsu, Medion (Aldi tech supplier) and Motorola (mobile phones).
Lenovo and HP battle it out for the world’s largest PC makers. The future for both seems rosy as more people embrace the Windows ecosystem. But the real future lies in diversity – or as Matt put it, “Never standing still”. The remainder of the article is paraphrased to avoid extensive use of what he said.
GG: Matt you have been with Lenovo for twelve years now – that means you would have started soon after the IBM PC acquisition? What has changed for Lenovo and you?
MC: I started with Lenovo in Singapore in 2007 as a Director in Asia Pacific focussed on increasing sales of our ThinkPad notebook across the region. I then went on to work in our Japan business over the next few years. I held some roles that helped me to broaden my experience within the company including Director of Operations Japan, GM Transactional/Director of Product Japan, GM Partner Sales, Executive Director – Product Strategy and then in February 2013 moved to my current role as Managing Director, Lenovo Australia and New Zealand.
Unexpected for a lad from South Australia who started life working in hotels and thought his career lay in hospitality. Through my interests, I fell into ‘tech’ landing a job with HP and later spent five years with Toshiba as Notebook Product marketing manager.
So, for me, it has been a time where I have seen technology mature from 3kg at-best-transportable computing laptops to near 1kg connected, touch-based ultra-lights. I have also seen the almost complete domination of mobile over the desktop in the consumer space.
From Lenovo’s perspective, I have seen it evolve from a growing hardware maker to a disruptive technology company. It’s not just about the Windows PC device any more – it’s a much broader ecosystem across many devices including Android, the Cloud and other ecosystems.
GG: Like you foray into Smart Devices?
MC: You have not seen anything yet. At Lenovo, we focus on placing the customer first and responding to their needs. Our Smart Display (Google Assistant – GadgetGuy review here) is a prime example of this and has sold extremely well since its recent launch. The response to what was the first assistant to add a visual component to Google Assistant has been well above expectations. You can safely say that more and unconventional products will get voice control. We are, OS agnostic supporting a mix of key platforms like the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Cortana (Windows now supports Alexa).
Next, we will bring in our Smart home products – the Smart Bulb, Smart Plug and Smart camera but these are just the tip of the iceberg. With Lenovo’s scale and manufacturing capability, we will cover a large spectrum of products avoiding proprietary devices and platforms, instead, we using popular, established standards like Wi-Fi, so they are going to work with most mainstream interfaces like Google Assistant and Amazon Alex.
We will also work with partners like Arlo, TP-Link and others to leverage their technology and our global distribution presence. And we are going to extend that into the smart office with ThinkSmart devices like collaboration hubs and Windows IoT embedded devices.