Lenovo’s surprise acquisition of Google’s Motorola handset division for $2.91 billion yesterday has shaken up the status quo in the Android-based smartphone market. I wonder if, over time, this acquisition may (counterintuitively) benefit Microsoft and its Windows Phone platform.
Clearly, the near-term impact of Lenovo’s purchase will be all Android related. Lenovo is already one of the top three smartphone vendors in China, and all of its existing phones use the Android OS. The addition of the Motorola Android smartphone portfolio will give Lenovo an immediate presence in the U.S., along with a higher-priced product line to balance the lower-priced phones that the company has built primarily for the Asian market.
Lenovo already proved its ability to produce quality hardware following its earlier acquisition of IBM’s personal computer division. Against most expectations at the time, Lenovo’s subsequent ThinkPad laptops maintained the reputation for quality and durability that IBM had previously established for the brand. (I own a Lenovo ThinkPad for this reason – along with the fact that I love the keypad’s integral “pencil eraser” pointing device…)
At first glance, the emergence of another major Android smartphone vendor looks like a dose of more bad news for Microsoft and its struggling Windows Phone OS. (I’m sure Samsung isn’t thrilled about this development, either.) But I wouldn’t be surprised if Lenovo eventually throws its hat into the Windows Phone ring as well.
After all, Lenovo grew into the world’s leading PC vendor by selling Windows-based laptops, and it offers a large portfolio of both Android-based and Windows 8-based tablets. It made sense for Lenovo to go all-Android when building inexpensive smartphones for its domestic market. Now, as it becomes an overnight player in the upper end of the Android smartphone market, as well as a smartphone player in the U.S. and other non-Asian geographies, might the company also consider launching a Windows Phone-based line of devices?
Maybe it’s a stretch to think Lenovo would choose to complicate its business model with multiple phone OS products, especially after sinking nearly $3 billion in an Android-focused acquisition. But the company has lots of experience, and success, with Windows-based products, and is already playing both sides of the fence in tablets. Do you think there’s a chance that not just Samsung, but Nokia and its Windows Phone devices, could face direct competition from Lenovo in the smartphone market?