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Is Lenovo making an enterprise smartphone play with its Motorola buy?

Lenovo's nearly $3 billion Motorola Mobility buy could lead to integration with Lenovo's ThinkPad brand for a big enterprise play.

The affect Lenovo's massive Motorola Mobility purchase will have on enterprise IT is uncertain, but industry watchers believe the tech giant has a big opportunity.

Lenovo can see the laptop is under threat.

Chris Hazelton,
research director, 451 Research

Just a week after Lenovo agreed to purchase IBM's Intel-based System X servers for $2.3 billion, it struck a deal with Google Inc. for Motorola Mobility to the tune of $2.91 billion. Lenovo will get the Motorola brand as well as its smartphones, including the Moto X, Moto G and Droid Ultra series.

Putting the pieces together -- along with Lenovo's mobile tools including its other smartphones, tablets and laptops -- could make Lenovo a contender in the enterprise mobility market, according to Matt Kosht, an IT director at an Alaskan utility company.

"It's clear [Lenovo] is trying to be the next Samsung," Kosht said. Samsung is working its way into enterprise IT shops with its mobile security platforms and enterprise services.

Lenovo's enterprise smartphone play

Lenovo was reportedly interested in acquiring troubled device manufacturer BlackBerry before BlackBerry took itself off the market last year.

Lenovo may look to repeat its success from when it bought another major brand, the IBM ThinkPad, back in 2005, according to Chris Hazelton, director of mobile and wireless for 451 Research in New York. While he suspects Lenovo's play is primarily aimed at the consumer market, the company has the assets to make a run at enterprise titans Apple Inc. and Samsung.

"You could see some of the enterprise expertise from the ThinkPad division and Android expertise from Motorola Mobility put together," Hazelton said.

The enterprise smartphone opportunity for Lenovo is a big one, with its current strengths in laptops and tablets for the enterprise, according to Eric Klein, senior mobility analyst at VDC Research Group Inc. in Natick, Mass.

"Positioning [Motorola Mobility] alongside [the ThinkPad] product line is the best enterprise opportunity due to that brand's reputation and acceptance as a business-grade platform," Klein said. "That's the logical place for them to take it."

What Lenovo gets with Motorola

The deal gives Lenovo a chance to access the hot U.S. smartphone market in a way that would be difficult to do organically, according to Bob O'Donnell, founder and chief analyst for TECHnalysis Research LLC in Foster City, Calif.

Recent news of Apple's earnings signals maturation of the high end of the smartphone market, and the Motorola asset could help Lenovo make headway in the lower- and middle-range of that market, Klein said.

Going after the enterprise would take significant resources for a company committing nearly $3 billion for this acquisition, however. Manpower could also be an issue, with Google axing a significant portion of Motorola's staff since August 2012.

"You're going to have to commit to spending some money on gaining visibility within that segment to have success," Klein said.

Changes in the enterprise market are shifting the attention from PCs to mobile devices, and Hazelton thinks Lenovo realizes that.

"Lenovo can see the laptop is under threat," he said. "The cloud and mobile are growing, and they are in the enterprise. … [Lenovo needs] to have a complete story, and this helps to complete that."

Google bought Motorola Mobility less than two years ago and will retain the vast majority of Motorola Mobility's patents with Lenovo receiving a license to that portfolio and other intellectual property. Lenovo will receive more than 2,000 Motorola patent assets as part of the deal.

The sale of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo is pending regulatory approval.

Lenovo did not respond to a request for comment.

Senior news writer Diana Hwang contributed to this report.

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