Lenovo plays games to combat Samsung
TO OFFSET falling PC sales and reduce its reliance on ThinkPad notebooks, Lenovo is adding a gaming service that the computer-maker says can help it overtake Samsung Electronics in the smartphone arena in China.
Lenovo Game World will include social-networking features, software reviews and gameplay tips when it starts in the third quarter, offering popular titles like Fruit Ninja for devices that run Google's Android operating system, such as the computer-maker's Ideaphone K900.
Software and services underpin chief executive Yang Yuanqing's push to sell more handsets as demand for PCs slides.
While Lenovo's app store has logged more than one billion downloads since it opened in 2010, the company is looking to Game World for an edge in the biggest market for handsets, where mobile-game sales of 9.6 billion yuan (S$2 billion) this year will rise about 50 per cent annually for the next three years, research group Analysys International predicted.
Unlike the United States, where Google and Amazon.com dominate sales of Android applications, China has hundreds of companies offering mobile software.
Lenovo wants to set itself apart from that crowd with features like those available on Apple's Game Center, such as global leader boards that let players see how they compare to the world's best.
"A mobile platform for entertainment is becoming more and more important in today's handset industry," said Mr Ricky Lai, an analyst at Guotai Junan International Holdings in Hong Kong. "The more fans Lenovo can get on their own platform, the more customers will want to use that kind of handset."
Sales of mobile games in China will rise 55 per cent to 9.6 billion yuan this year. Users of mobile games will rise 30 per cent to 280 million this year, Analysys said. While there is no comprehensive ranking of mobile-application sellers in China, Lenovo's store is among the largest.
Lenovo is expanding into smartphones, tablets, TV sets and home-entertainment systems such as the Horizon Table PC, a 27-inch touchscreen panel unveiled in January that lets multiple users play games like air hockey and Monopoly.
The coffee-table-size Horizon, which uses Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, comes with accessories like electronic dice and joysticks.
Lenovo plans to boost smartphone shipments by 72 per cent to 50 million units this year and start selling handsets in the US, Mr Yang said last month. With more than US$3 billion (S$3.8 billion) in cash, Lenovo would consider acquisitions to help build its smartphone and software businesses, he said.
"Mobile devices are not just hardware," he said. "There's a combination of hardware, software, applications and content."