In an interview today with Sina Tech (link via Google Translate), Dilip Bhatia, vice president and general manager of Lenovo’s ThinkPad Business Unit, said that the Chinese tech company may build a Think-brand smartphone. If Lenovo does come out with a Think-brand smartphone (a ThinkPhone?), it would be inline with the company’s growth strategy. Lenovo is currently the world’s second largest marker of PCs behind HP, but is eager to diversify its core businesses by aggressively growing its mobile unit.
Bhatia told Sina Tech that the company wants the Think brand, which includes ThinkPad laptops, to gain higher name recognition and desirability among younger consumers. Lenovo has already fared well with its current suite of smartphones: in Q42012, its smartphone business grew 216 percent year-over-year, shipping 9.5 million units and moving into the top five smartphone vendors in the world for the first time, according to data from Canalys. Much of that growth has been fueled, however, by the sale of low-end devices in China, and Lenovo is still searching for ways to gain a larger share of the global market.
A high-end smartphone released under its flagship Think brand may serve as Lenovo’s answer to the iPhone and allow it to compete more directly with Apple (CEO Yang Yuanqing has said that he wants Lenovo to overtake the Cupertino company).
Other steps Lenovo has taken to build out its mobile business include building a $800 million facility in China that will produce smartphones and tablets. The company has also been busy looking at acquisitions, a tactic it took in 2005 when it acquired the ThinkPad brand by purchasing IBM’s PC division. Reports emerged last week that Japan’s NEC is in talks to sell its struggling mobile phone business to Lenovo, and earlier this year BlackBerry was rumored to be another potential acquisition target. Lenovo denied the reports, but purchasing BlackBerry would have allowed it to gain access to a new OS and the Canadian company’s subscriber base.
Lenovo has been emailed for comment. [UPDATE: A Lenovo representative said, “The report was inaccurate, and I understand it is being updated. We have not announced any plans for a ThinkPad smartphone. Our executive stated that we continuously evaluate opportunities for growth, including things like new technologies, designs, markets and form factors.”]