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Lenovo's new secret weapon: Hollywood star

Updated: 2013-10-30 23:27
By Gao Yuan ( China Daily)

Lenovo's new secret weapon: Hollywood star

Actor Ashton Kutcher, named Lenovo Group Ltd's product engineer, launches the company's Yoga Tablet at YouTube Space LA on Tuesday in Los Angeles, California. Michael Kovac / AFP 

Meet Lenovo Group Ltd's newest employee: American sitcom sensation Ashton Kutcher.

The world's largest personal computer maker said on Tuesday that the 35-year-old star is joining Lenovo as a product engineer.

His job is to help the company's young tablet team develop products that can compete with Apple Inc's iPad series.

Chief Marketing Officer David Roman said at a Los Angeles news conference that the actor/entrepreneur will provide input on design, specifications, software and usage scenarios.

Details of the contract weren't divulged.

The Beijing-based company also is likely to unveil an "AK" branded product next year, featuring Kutcher's design ideas, according to a person familiar with the project.

James Wang, an analyst at Shanghai-based consulting firm Canalys, said hiring Kutcher is a smart branding move.

"Lenovo is a company with global vision. It is quickly adopting marketing skills from overseas companies, and Kutcher will help the company boost brand awareness in developed markets," Wang said.

Lenovo is not the first tech company to hire a celebrity.

In January, BlackBerry Ltd hired pop singer Alicia Keys as global creative director. And US consumer electronics provider Polaroid Corp found Lady Gaga a similar spot on its design team.

But Kutcher probably is the most technology-savvy star in any electronics firm's employees.

In the popular sitcom Two and a Half Men, Kutcher plays an immature billionaire Internet tycoon. He also stars in the new movie Jobs, giving Hollywood's first portrayal of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

In real life, Kutcher has invested in a number of Silicon Valley companies, such as Skype, Foursquare, Path and Fab.

Now, Lenovo is betting on the Jobs-portrayer to help bring down Apple, whose iPads dominate the tablet market.

Data from research firm IDC showed Apple took more than 60 percent of tablet market share worldwide by the end of the second quarter.

And iPad shipments are likely to swell by year's end, powered by the release of the iPad Air and iPad Mini 2 this month.

IDC said Lenovo's tablet shipments lag far behind Apple and South Korean giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The Chinese company delivered 1.5 million tablets worldwide from April to June. Meanwhile, Apple shipped 14.6 million units, and Samsung had 8.1 million.

On Friday, Lenovo executives, along with Kutcher, will introduce the next-generation Yoga Tablet to the Chinese market.

The company hopes its new product will close the gap between the industry leaders.

"Yoga is a high-end product for Lenovo, but it's difficult for one product to alter the current market landscape," said Wang, who said he thinks the company's true goal is to sell more low-end tablets once the Yoga-Kutcher combination has burnished the company's image.

The top PC brand also is actively exploring the consumer electronics sector in emerging markets such as Latin America, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. That's a move that will increase shipments while avoiding direct clashes with Apple and Samsung in developed markets.

"Lenovo is on track to become the world's third-largest tablet producer," said Wang, adding that the company also is battling Taiwan-based Acer Inc and ASUSTeK Computer Inc for dominance.

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