Lenovo joins smart-TV war with China offering

BEIJING/HONG KONG - Smart TV sets are the latest battleground for technology giants like Apple, Samsung and Lenovo Group, each of them trying to capture the eyeballs and wallets of consumers hungry for 3-D content displayed in high-definition within the comfort of their homes.

The latest entry in the market was unveiled in Beijing by Lenovo on Tuesday, where the world's second-largest PC maker showcased its 55-inch K91 smart TV to attendees who were reading Sina microblogs, playing simulated tennis and watching the movie Inception on demo models.

Smart TV has been slow to catch on in China because of restrictions on content and the concept itself being relatively new.

The K Series is Lenovo's first smart TV and the company decided to launch it on its home turf because it said it would be easier to negotiate content deals in China.

"We've been very busy this spring sowing seeds for the future," Lenovo's chief executive officer and chairman, Mr Yang Yuanqing, said. "Lenovo not only wants to be a leading PC vendor, but it also wants to be a global leader in providing Internet consumer devices."

Lenovo may have to play catch-up in the rest of the world as tech heavyweights Samsung and Apple power ahead with their own offerings. Another Korean firm, LG, the world's No. 2 TV maker after Samsung, plans to launch Internet-enabled TV based on Google's platform in the United States this month.

"Whatever Apple does, it sets the trend for some other PC makers," said Mr Vincent Chen, an analyst at Yuanta Securities in Taipei. "For Lenovo, the smart TV is a good strategy for it to consolidate its market share in China."

However, he said content will be the biggest obstacle for Lenovo's smart TV to be sold outside of China.

Lenovo, which has been diversifying into making its Lephone smartphones and Lepad tablet PCs, derived more than 40 per cent of its total nine-month sales of US$22 billion (S$27 billion) last year from China.

The launch of its smart TV will unlikely have an immediate boost on Lenovo's earnings in the coming quarters since it is only being sold in China. By 2015, smart TV sets will make up about half of total TV sets shipped globally, Lenovo said.

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