The Friday Interview: Fran O’Sullivan, Lenovo

6 Jul 2007

This week’s interviewee is Fran O’Sullivan (pictured) who heads up the Lenovo Products Group.

You’ve been in the industry since the first PC was introduced in the early Eighties. How do you feel about the PC sector today?

Well, I was with IBM for 24 years and spent 22 of those years on PCs. I lived through all of the changes. However, these past two years since the acquisition have been the most exciting. I’ve learned the most in the past two years and feel there’s a winning spirit running through Lenovo.

What’s the consensus on how the acquisition has proceeded?

One of our worries when we were about to make the announcement was the reaction of the employees, especially since many of them were long-term. We made sure that we were communicating all the time in order to ensure it ran smoothly. The acquisition has succeeded beyond expectations. My favourite quote about the whole thing is ‘the shackles are off’.

What synergies exist between Lenovo and the former IBM PC division?

There was a good heritage of innovation in both companies. The ThinkPad notebook was a prime example of the kind of innovation we could produce. The problem for the PC division was that making personal computers wasn’t IBM’s core competency and IBM didn’t make the money available to spend on marketing and building up the brand. Our strategy to deliver the best engineered PCs in the world is unchanged and our customers are absolutely delighted. The recent ThinkPad devices with the latest Intel Santa Rosa processors are the quietest, coolest and highest performing machines we’ve ever announced.

It has been suggested that emerging markets offer much better growth for the PC industry than mature markets like Europe. Do you agree?

Our consumer strategy is being conducted country-by-country and in China alone we’ve opened up 5,000 stores. We aim to pick that up and duplicate it in India. Asiatic countries are encroaching on more mature markets in terms of demand.

Do you envisage a Lenovo store for Ireland?

Right now that’s way off. But we will pursue our strategy on an individual country basis. Wait and see.

Lately the PC sector seems to be competing on who is greenest. How green is Lenovo?

We’ve been doing quite well on our environmental journey but we still have a long way to go. It’s important to get it right across the board and we challenge our development teams to come up with the most efficient and environmentally friendly machines on the planet. We believe it’s the right thing to do.

What are the latest trends to hit the PC industry?

Mobile computing is going to dominate. 3G is the right business model because you can be always connected anywhere you go. New battery technologies, instant-on and push email are also important trends. With many homes in Europe not having strong broadband penetration we’ll see early adoption of 3G-based devices that are thinner and lighter and boast other wireless features in the next 12 months.

John Kennedy

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