Q&A: Lenovo COO Fran O'Sullivan

IT PRO talked to the chief operating officer of PC maker Lenovo about the company's plans and products, and how she balances the Chinese and American sides of the company.

Fifteen years after the very first ThinkPad, two years after it bought the IBM PC division and three years before it loses the rights to use the IBM name, Lenovo is doing well. The company announced a twelvefold jump in profits, from $5 million (2.5 million) a quarter to nearly $67 million (33.5 million) and regained its positions as the number three PC manufacturer in the world - behind HP and Dell - after falling behind Acer the previous quarter. We caught up with the company's chief operating officer Fran O'Sullivan to talk about what's coming next in notebooks and why the mix of cultures is working so well for the company.

You've launched another tablet PC, the X61 with the dual-touch screen. Are all mainstream notebooks eventually going to turn into tablets or is it still really for vertical users?

As handwriting recognition and voice recognition get better, does the tablet become a more normal form factor? Will we all start carrying thin and light UMPCs without keyboards?

What's next for mainstream notebook PCs? What are we going to be seeing in the next Thinkpads?

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How about new hardware developments, what's important?

Who's ahead in processors for notebooks? Are you backing Intel or AMD or looking at other suppliers like VIA for really low-power devices?

Do you expect 3G integrated in notebooks to become ubiquitous, or will the data costs hold it back?

We are working on flat rates within the US. If you stay at a hotel you pay a fairly high amount to connect per night to the high bandwidth network; the cost of broadband for several nights in a hotel will pay for your monthly flat rate.

You've kept the IBM brand, but have you been able to capitalise on Chinese strengths like close ties to resellers and supply chain efficiencies?

We took the efficient Chinese supply chain and added quality management from IBM and we've come up with a win- win situation. We have improved our bottom line return, improved serviceability from the supply chain, improved our customer satisfaction and we have improved the quality. The area we want to tackle next is the ThinkVantage technology. There are some software consumer tools on the Chinese side that I want to bring in so we can have a common kernel for the enterprise and consumer customer.

Are there products and technologies from China and Japan that we haven't had in the West, that you are planning to launch globally?

Mature markets do have differences. There are some apps that will definitely fit and some of the trendy designs will be very popular. But we're still in the 'working it out phase'.

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