lenovo ceo

When news hit earlier this week that Google had agreed to sell its Motorola Mobility unit to Lenovo for $2.9 billion, it surprised a lot of people. Not only was the sale price some $10 billion below what Google paid for Motorola 3 years ago, but Lenovo? Where’d that come from?

According to a recent Fortune interview with Lenovo CEO Yuanqing Yan, that was the plan all along. Yan says that his company has been eyeing Motorola since before Google came along , and it has major plans for it. Lenovo wants to become the #1 smartphone-maker in the world…

I recommend checking out the entire Fortune interview, but here are two exchanges I found particularly note-worthy :

How did you first get interested in Motorola?

It’s a very, very interesting love story. We were interested in Motorola a long time ago, even when they split into two companies, Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions (MSI) [in January of 2011 –Ed.].

Right after Google (GOOG) bought Motorola [in 2012 ], I invited [Google executive chairman] Eric Schmidt to have a dinner at my house. I told him, “If you think you want run the hardware business, you can keep the business; but if you are not interested in the hardware business, we definitely can handle that, take over that.”

He remembered that, and two months ago, he sent me an e-mail. I called him back, and he asked me, “Are you still interested in Motorola?” I said, “Definitely.” We started to discuss it. I went to Silicon Valley many times. [Google CEO] Larry Page invited me to his house to have a dinner. Very quickly — in just two months — we closed the deal.

With Motorola, Lenovo will be the No. 3 smartphone maker worldwide. Do you think your company can catch up with Apple (AAPL) or Samsung, who are still far ahead of you? And how long will it take?

Definitely, over time. Our mission is to surpass them.

This last bit is interesting to me because in 2013, it’s estimated that Lenovo only sold around 45 million smartphones. That’s for the whole year. That’s 6 million less than Apple sold during its last quarter, and a staggering 41 million less than Samsung during the same three months.

lenovo k900

But Yan has a plan. While he wants to keep the Lenovo name in Asia, where it’s very popular, he hopes to leverage the Motorola brand in the US and other areas where it’s widely recognized. And he says both companies are working on a wide range of new, low-end to high-end, devices.

Also, this isn’t his first rodeo. Back in 2005, Yan oversaw Lenovo’s purchase of IBM’s PC business, and it is now a global PC brand. Yes, the smartphone space is an entirely different beast, but if he can replicate even a fraction of that success, then expect Lenovo to do some big things.

  • Jonathan

    Surpass Apple? HA. That’ll take a few lifetimes.

    • felixtaf

      Even Samsung (with its mega collection of smartphones), couldnt keepup with Apple’s 5 current iPhones!

      • N&LH

        And they will have a nightmare because of iPhone 6 will have bigger screen. There are many people wanna buy iPhone but they are looking for iPhone has bigger screen

      • N&LH

        Many people switched to Samsung because Galaxy has bigger screen

      • Jonathan

        Amen, bro.

  • Rowan09

    Motorola smartphones are not that popular in the US, so they will have to rebrand the company and make some better looking phones.

  • jack

    I bought a Lenovo laptop and it failed after 2 months. Hypocrites on technical support disn’t help me. The laptop has a big stick saying: in-house support anywhere

    • Jonathan

      My school provides laptops, and it was Lenovo as well. Hated it probably more than you. It was a locked down computer, so no admin. I figured a way around and did my best to customize to my liking. Installed Windows 8, other monitors, and so forth. 4 times I believe my computer ran into a problem where it wouldn’t boot. Lenovo was no service, and if I called the school, they’d kill me for modifying the computer. Before you judge me, I know what I’m doing, and I rather saved the school money, mind you. I ended up fixing the problem myself every single stink’n time. It lasted me 5 years until I switched schools. I now have a HP ProBook 6570b and love it way better. I did the same as my other, modified it and installed Windows 8.
      Of course, it will never be the same as a Mac. ^-^

  • N&LH

    what a joke!!.

  • felixtaf

    First try to surpass Huawei, HTC and LG…

  • Jacob S

    LMFAO, no further comments!

  • misterz

    Doesn’t every company hope to become the market leader?

    • N&LH

      If a company wants to become the market leader, then their goal should not be I want surpass this company or that. Their goal should be, making the best products. If they do that then they will be market leader.

    • N&LH

      I am sure Lenovo will do nothing. They will make Android phone like other companies. Then they will make an ads to bash other companies

  • Lordrootman

    Come on CEO are you Drunk ?

  • Mark Seah

    anybody can build better hardware with awesome specs, apple pdt specs are inferior since day 1 but still sells…………what innovation is there for them to create other than copy apple / android ?

  • Steve

    He’s high….

  • Laszlo Gaspar

    I’m not sure where I stand with Lenovo, I dont really like their tablets but I do like some of their PC’s.

    • N&LH

      but their PC’s look very old

      • Laszlo Gaspar

        Yeah I agree in terms of desktop PC’s but devices like the Lenovo Yoga are powerful and look rather nice.

      • N&LH

        No, I mean laptops. I had a look on their laptop line-up. Honestly, I found their laptops have old design and does no have advance engineering.

  • n0ahcruz3

    They are the number 1 pc manufacturer right now. So this will be interesting.

    • N&LH

      They are not number 1 PC manufacturer right now

    • N&LH

      They will do nothing. They will have a normal Android phone, enter price war then make ads to bash other companies

  • Ted Forbes

    “We were interested in Motorola a long time ago.” Later Eric Schmidt called “Are you still interested in Motorola?” I said, “Definitely.” Hmmm! Somethings up with this!

    If you know someone wants something so badly and you paid a lot of money for it and they still want it very badly and still willing to take it later, well you definitely don’t give it away, no you suck it to them, not far less than you paid for it months before, but much more than the present. Especially if they want it very badly.

    I know Google is holding the valuable patents but figures and interest are far fetched. Something is very strange with this picture!!!!

  • Hyr3m

    1) Lenovo makes the best laptops in the market. (sturdiness, well-thought-out designs etc..). I’m sure if their phones were sold in the west they would be a hit. (well… maybe they’re sold somewhere in the west I have yet to see one in Switzerland for example :/)

    2) Surpassing Apple is not hard, almost every player in the market has done it. All they have to do is think about the users first. (As opposed to “image” and “difference for the sake of difference even if it’s counter productive – and marketing will find a way to turn flaws into selling points”)

    3) They shouldn’t try to use the Motorola name for devices in the west : Motorola has been making ugly, cheap and crappy cell-phones for decades. When I see a fugly phone that I would never buy I say “still better than an Motorola or an iPhone”. (just kidding, I would never even take an iPhone into consideration in regards to potential smartphones to purchase)