​Lenovo bought IBM's PC business 10 years ago: Jury out on broader ambitions

Lenovo's acquisition of IBM's PC business a decade ago transformed both partners. Lenovo gets a short birthday party, but now has to digest two more deals if it's going to be an enterprise juggernaut.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Lenovo on Thursday will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its acquisition of IBM's PC business. What remains to be seen is whether Lenovo can pull off the sequel---the acquisition of IBM's server business---and become a larger smartphone-to-data center enterprise vendor.

The IBM-Lenovo deal in 2005 will go down as a win-win scenario. Lenovo bought IBM's PC business and an iconic ThinkPad brand and leveraged it to be the No. 1 PC maker. By shedding the PC business, IBM transformed into a hardware, software and services outfit. Big Blue is also looking for a sequel of its own as it sheds commodity servers to focus on analytics, mobile, security and cloud.

Lenovo, armed with IBM's PC unit, eventually pursued a strategy that revolved around defending mature markets---U.S. and Europe---and expanding share in emerging countries.

Now Lenovo is digesting the acquisitions of IBM's server business as well as the purchase of Motorola.

If successful, Lenovo can offer everything from servers to smartphones with all the devices in between.

Lenovo's master plan, however, will largely depend on those latter purchases. In other words, Lenovo can't go too crazy with its PC victory lap after a decade.

The company said that it will launch its first global tech conference where it'll outline its device strategy. More importantly, Lenovo will have to convince enterprises that they can bet on the company's roadmap, which will include wearables and connected devices too. On the consumer front, Lenovo will need to inspire Apple-like gadget lust.

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However, Lenovo's enterprise businesses will ultimately pay the bills.

For now, Lenovo gets a short birthday party. The acquisition of IBM's PC business kicked off a string of eight acquisitions over the last decade that paid off in the end.

Here are a few milestones of note:

  • Lenovo bought IBM's PC division in 2005.
  • In 2006, Lenovo rolled out its own branded PCs.
  • In 2011, Lenovo formed a joint venture with NEC and Compal and later acquired Medion.
  • In 2012, Lenovo formed a storage joint venture with EMC.
  • The Yoga convertible launched in 2012.
  • Lenovo became No. 1 in 2014 and began pushing smartphones outside of China.
  • In 2014, Lenovo acquired Motorola Mobility and IBM's x86 server division.
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