Lenovo means business – even in crowded (and slowing) tablet market

Lenovo's spent more than $5 billion in the past week to become relevant in the low-end server and mobile handset markets. While its surging tablet business is still just a drop in the bucket, this multipronged attack could reap huge benefits in emerging markets.

Lenovo apparently wants it all.


On the same day that it announced it would shell out nearly $3 billion for Google's Motorola Mobility handset unit , the latest IDC tablet data found it perched above the crowd in terms of year-over-year shipment growth thanks to a 325-percent increase from the same quarter last year.

Throw in last week's $2.3 billion purchase of IBM's x86 server unit and it's abundantly clear Lenovo has no intention of becoming another victim of the PC industry's slow but steady demise .

Lenovo shipped 3.4 million tablets in the fourth quarter, a spike from just over 800,000 units in the year-ago quarter. And while that growth is impressive, it needs to be kept in perspective: those 3.4 million total units is roughly the same number of tablets by which Apple grew its total shipments (26 million vs. 22.9 million) in the quarter.

However, Lenovo holds some advantages over other tablet makers and, now, some of its smartphone-making brethren.

"Lenovo’s access to the Chinese whitebox manufacturing infrastructure has helped it drive more low-priced tablet products into the market, growing its share from just 1.3 percent in the same quarter last year," said Jitesh Ubrani, an IDC research analyst.

Worldwide tablet demand tapered considerably in the fourth quarter as total shipments increased just 28.2 percent, down from 62.4 percent growth in the prior quarter, so it's clear that all mobile device vendors will have to find new revenue streams in emerging markets such as China and India – the very places Lenovo would seem to have an inside track.

"The company's strength in emerging markets, and its increased market share in adjoining markets such as PCs and smartphones, makes it well positioned to see additional tablet gains in 2014," Ubrani added.