5G a key factor to seamless VR experience, says Lenovo EMEA President

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Lenovo spent a majority of MWC 2018 focusing on its new laptops, and showcasing its successful Moto Mods in the absence of the Motorola G6. It’s been an interesting year for the company, with its server arm looking to grow into the market again, along with a host of new and updated consumer products.

EMEA President Francois Bornibus has witnessed Lenovo’s growth in the region, but says that it’s far from done. We caught up with him to talk about the Lenovo’s strategy with AR and VR, and how the company is poised to harness 5G for a seamless VR experience from any location.

It’s coming up to a year now with your role as EMEA President, from your previous role as EMEA COO. How has this changed your dynamic within Lenovo?

To be honest, there hasn’t been much change at all! I’ve been engaged with core parts of the business for so many years now, so there wasn’t too much of a change with what I was doing. What’s interesting to note is that when I joined the company seven years ago, Lenovo was selling notebooks to the larger accounts, because that was our history. The IBM and ThinkPad brands were sold to the enterprise market, and at that time we had about 8% EMEA market share. 

Now the company is moving to 21.5% EMEA market share, covering all markets segments across a range of products – servers, AR/VR, detachables, laptops, PCs, and so much more. It’s been a fantastic change for the company, and it’s exciting to see what’s in store for the future.

One of the things you’ve been focusing on is the 2-in-1 market segment – do you still see a lot more growth for this?

The convertible concept we created four years ago is still a growing part of the business, and so is the market. For detachables the market isn’t growing too much, but it’s an important size of the market to keep an eye on and invest in. Our new Lenovo Mix 630 pushes an always-on, always-connected device, which is something the market has been looking for.

How have the Moto Mods been faring in the market since their launch?

Around one third of our customers are purchasing Moto Mods, which is a good sign. The initial offering of Moto Mods has now expanded to a larger variety as well – we have an Alexa-powered speaker, a Mod to measure blood pressure, and still many others on the market. 

The health mod was especially successful, as we had a medical company approach us about it because they wanted to deploy this to customers so they could obtain a daily surveillance of important vital signs without having to send over a doctor every day. There are still plenty of other opportunities available, and the Moto Mods help to expand on the smartphone experience for consumers.

VR and AR was a huge focus this year - how is Lenovo able to differentiate its offerings from everything else that’s coming to market?

It’s all about the experience. Some products are similar, with content from different providers like Microsoft or Google. That’s why for us it’s all about making sure our customers have a unique experience with our products. The Star Wars Jedi Challenges for example, is a great partnership with Disney, and we’re going to continue expanding on the kind of games that will be available. 

VR and AR is also important for business applications as well, for example a travel agent that wants to show customers various travel packages and destinations. It has to be easy to use and immersive, but there’s still a lot of work to do in order to make the experience as hassle-free and as enjoyable as possible. The headsets themselves are still quite big, so we need to continue to work on the technology to make it smaller and still usable.

Star Wars Jedi Challenges has been in the market for a few months now – what has feedback been like?

The feedback so far is that the product is very interesting, but there are two things we have to continue to work on. First is the content – the game is really fun and interesting, but we also have to try and look at other games or experiences we can offer customers. 

Secondly we want to try and expand the number of supported phones, simply because the system requirements dictate that only high-end smartphones will work for the best experience. It’s our first trial at making such a device, so we will keep listening and working on improvements and new content.

What are some scenarios you see the Mirage headset fitting into?

The Mirage headset and camera is all about sharing experiences, and that’s where this device shines. It’s going to be interesting to see how it does, but we have to be careful that the network capability is also there to support these new technologies. So wherever you are streaming from with your camera, the cellular network is powerful enough to provide a smooth experience for users. 

Operators are looking at 5G technologies keenly, because AR/VR can use a lot of bandwidth which people will have to pay for. So in a way it’s a great thing for operators to be looking at. It works in certain environments, but when you’re talking about streaming from very remote places, you need to make sure you can get good connectivity for the best experience.

Is the Lenovo Smart Display your answer to a more interactive personal assistant?

Absolutely. People want to see what they’re buying, not just hear a description being read out. So these kind of products will have a very interesting future. It might also lead to future new devices for a totally new ecosystem, who knows.

 

 MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2018 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.