Delay is a Good Thing

I’m personally pleased that we have delayed our Skylight and IdeaPad U1 Hybrid systems.  The world has changed a lot since CES in January and it isn’t just because of the iPad.  Droids, Kindles, Facebook, and Evos all play a part. Though I am pleased overall, I am not happy with having to wait longer to own my own U1.  I was captivated as much as anyone else.  However, I personally believe that had we started shipping Skylight in April and the U1 in June as we originally indicated, they would have both been commercial failures. Success is all about the ecosystem pushing content and extending the device’s capabilities.  Kindle + Amazon.  Droid + Verizon.  Facebook + (whatever device you want).  Lenovo + ... ??? As conceived, I don’t think that consumers would have seen much difference between a Skylight and a netbook.  We needed an app store to create this differentiation.  However, creating a new app store in the face of multiple well-established and competing players would have required a LOT of money and a LOT of brand building campaigns.  Moving to Android solves a lot of problems for us.  It has high market awareness.  It has a lot of smart people working on making it a success.  And, it has its own Fanboy club.  If we can tap into that ecosystem, we’ll be able to make our splash that much sooner. Done right, I think our revamped IdeaPad U1 would be the ultimate device for education.  According to Lenovo’s own Michael Schmedlen, 21st century skills involve creating content, not consuming it.  Something like the IdeaPad U1 gives students a full-function Windows experience for inside the classroom, preparing them for the working world where they will do their jobs on Windows based machines running Windows applications.  (This Windows hegemony is not going to change any time soon.  These students may be comfortable with alternate operating systems and platforms, but they won’t be in management positions to affect change away from Windows for at least 20 years.  Plus, change takes time, money, and training budget – all of which are in short supply.) A device for the education market also needs access to textbooks.  For a vendor to succeed, it needs content from Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt (50% share in the K-12 market) and Pearson (50%+ share in higher ed).  No vendor can claim that today.  Also, the open standard ePub is favored by Adobe and Barnes and Noble – both major players.  Remember, content is king. Despite all of these rational considerations, there is no question that hardware is an emotional purchase.  People need to feel attached and love their device.  This is where the removable slate portion of the IdeaPad U1 fits that need.  Users can use it in public and be the object of envy.  Running Android, it can surf to any web site, play any media, and view any photo you’d like.  If you don’t have the capability you need, the community will likely have already come up with an app for that – without undue censorship. The last reason we could dominate education with the U1 is because of Lenovo’s extensive experience ruggedizing notebooks.  A standard ThinkPad can pass up to 8  MIL specs for ruggedization in a variety of environments.  Forget the battlefield, our K-12 students are far more harsh on their devices than any solider.  We could use this design experience to create a product that would pass the rigors of daily use by a 6th grader. I don’t know what will come to pass, but I do know that delay, in this case, is a good thing.  We’re gunning for being the number 3 PC vendor in the world.  We won’t get there with timid moves.  Stay tuned.