Sunday, December 19, 2010

Final Lenovo Blog

Jay McBain
Former Director of Small and Medium Business

After 16 years, 5 locations, and about 12 different jobs, I bid farewell to Lenovo and IBM.

The company has been growing at a considerable pace over the past few years and is now within striking distance of number 2 in world-wide PC market share. Leaving the many friends I have made over the years will definitely be the hardest part.

Why the change?

I have been extremely fortunate to be a futurist during my years at the company. My first future keynote was to a group of students in 1995 and by the following year I was on cable TV talking about things like teleportation, human-centric computing, artificial intelligence and pervasive computing.

It was pervasive computing that became my specialty over the years – with over 100 speeches, blogs and magazine articles on the subject. The basic premise was that we would have dozens (if not hundreds) of internet enabled devices that were purpose built and worked together seamlessly in our everyday lives.

The PC would still be an important “core” device used for content creation and computation intensive applications such as graphics and finance. In the 1990’s I envisioned it as a server that made these other devices work and stay synchronized.

A couple of major trends have surfaced in the past few years that will drive the next generation of computing and make this pervasive world a reality:

1. Fast and ubiquitous connectivity
2. Cloud computing (known in the past as network-centric, edge of network, etc)

Ten years ago, the Smartphone gave us the ability to consume content without the need for a computer. Two years ago, the Netbook, a $300 functional computer, made people comfortable with a “companion” device to a PC. In April of 2010, the slate tablet (Apple iPad) was announced and sold 3 million units in a matter of weeks.

With predictions of 50 million units next year, the slate market is very real and the era of pervasive computing will be realized (16 years later I might add!). Upon his exit a few months ago, Ray Ozzie wrote a critically important memo to all of Microsoft called “Dawn of a New Day” that pushed the company to think about the end of the PC era. It is a must read for anyone in this industry.

The IBM PC, which standardized and legitimized PC technology, turns 30 years old on August 12th of next year. The market for desktops and notebooks is still forecasted to grow for the next 3 years at a steady pace. I believe the market will further mature over the next 5 years and then start to recede.

The market for pervasive devices will grow exponentially for the foreseeable future.

The manufacturers of every device in your home and business that plug into electrical outlets (or get battery power) are thinking of new and innovative ways the devices may work once connected. This also goes for devices that aren’t even electronic yet!

A world full of interconnected sensors, devices that can predict, learn, combined with social network aware technologies will change the way people interact with the world around them. Every industry will be impacted including what I believe will be revolutionary change in Education and Healthcare.

I believe that history books will mark 2010 as the year the technology world shifted. The pervasive devices will be produced at a tireless pace. Most of these devices will invariably come from the consumer world and things like security of data will become the domain of the cloud and networking technologies. The devices will be relatively cheap (and disposable) and the management and durability will become less and less important.

While design will be a key decision criteria, the availability of “apps” will be the most important. This is why the IBM PC beat out competitors in the early days – not because it was better, but most of the applications were Intel/Microsoft focused. Any device that you consider buying for your home or business will need to connect to everything else, especially social networks which will continue to grow.

Lenovo will need to seriously look at this future scenario. It will take leadership around the globe to recognize these fundamental changes and execute. A transformation into a consumer electronics company delivering on this future will be required. Also, the legacy of “business class” will be important to deliver the right mix of devices that adhere to increased regulation and legislation apparent around the world.

I trust my former colleagues will make this happen. It is an extraordinary time of change and opportunity for Lenovo which has the talent, drive and resources to embrace it.