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Lenovo’s Vision for the Future: Embracing AI PCs with Snapdragon X Elite – Six Five On The Road at Computex 2024

Lenovo's Vision for the Future: Embracing AI PCs with Snapdragon X Elite - Six Five On The Road at Computex 2024

On this episode of the Six Five On The Road, hosts Olivier Blanchard and Ryan Shrout are joined by Lenovo‘s Steve Long, SVP & GM, Commercial Segment IDG for a conversation on Lenovo’s strategy and vision for the future of AI PCs, emphasizing the development and integration of Snapdragon X Elite processors.

Their discussion covers:

  • Lenovo’s roadmap for the AI PC space in the upcoming year and its strategic positioning
  • The behind-the-scenes of the Snapdragon X Elite based machines’ development and the decision-making process for this collaboration
  • The differentiation in AI PC features between Lenovo’s commercial and consumer designs
  • Prospects for the PC and laptop market with the advent of X Elite processors, including new form factors and design considerations
  • Highlighting unique features, technologies, and capabilities in Lenovo’s ThinkPad and Yoga systems in the context of AI
  • Lenovo’s future plans aligning with Microsoft’s vision for the Copilot+ PC

Learn more at Lenovo.

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Transcript:

Ryan Shrout: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Six Five On The Road. We are here at Computex 2024 in Taipei, joined by my good friend Olivier, and we are here with some exclusive coverage and content courtesy of our friends at Qualcomm and the new Snapdragon X Elite. And joining us today for this interview is a good buddy of mine, Steve Long, SVP in the devices group at Lenovo. Steve, thanks for joining us.

Steve Long: It’s good to see you and thanks for having me.

Ryan Shrout: Absolutely. Now, we’ve known each other for a long time. I know this is not your first experience in Taiwan, not your first Computex. I’m just kind of general overview, what do you think about the level of interest and excitement and kind of buzz around this year’s show?

Steve Long: Yeah, I’ve been coming to Taiwan for probably 23 years. I think one of the last times I might’ve been here, we might’ve been together, Mr. Shrout. But I feel like this one is there’s absolutely an enthusiasm around the opportunity in the heart of what I’ve called the heart along the soul of the ecosystem, which is in Taiwan, there’s an excitement. There’s an excitement because of the possibilities of what everyone expects that AI is going to bring to actual use cases and applications and what people can do. And I think everyone in the industry is trying to own a little bit of that narrative and get behind what we can actually do with it. But there’s excitement is what I’d say. It’s different than other times.

Ryan Shrout: I totally agree.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. So in the last year, tell us about the journey of the developments of the Snapdragon X Elite platform, what that’s been like, and also what made you want to be part of that journey, make that happen?

Steve Long: Yeah, it’s a good question. So I’m relatively new to Lenovo. I’m about 90 days into this new job.

Ryan Shrout: But not new to the client PC world, I would say.

Steve Long: Definitely not new to the client PC world. After a long time at another silicon provider out there, I was at Intel for a long time. So the journey that Lenovo’s had with Qualcomm, it’s not a year-old journey. It’s not new. It’s actually, it’s been three-plus years of deep collaboration. You can even go before that with some of the phone businesses, Lenovo’s uniquely positioned from pocket to cloud. And so some of the relationships have been decade-plus in existence.

But more on the PC side, for the last three-plus years, there’s been a lot of co-engineering and co-development because as we know, app compatibility is a big deal and Lenovo being the ThinkPad, being the 30-year-old tried-and-true brand in the commercial space, Qualcomm and Lenovo have partnered on trying to drive app compatibility in the commercial segment. So it started three-plus years ago. We’ve been on a journey. But in the last year we’ve gotten extra excited because our friends at Microsoft have obviously jumped behind and done a lot of collaboration and co-engineering development. We dedicated a team here based out of Taiwan to do some of the X Elite design work. And we’re excited now to have both consumer and commercial products that are announced and soon to be in market.

Ryan Shrout: I want to touch on the consumer and commercial side because Lenovo is very well known for commercial products, the ThinkPad brand, but also Yoga coming out. How do you view those product lines kind of integrating the AI part of the AI PC differently from one another or will it be kind of even across them? What’s the differentiation in Lenovo’s mind about how you use that feature?

Steve Long: Well, I think everyone in the industry still is defining exactly what an AI PC is. There’s different definitions what an AI PC is. We even at Lenovo, we probably have, I would say today is the highest standard of what we would quantify or classify as an AI PC standard. You have to have certain amount of platform tops on the system. We think there needs to be an AI agent. We think there needs to be localized language models on the device. So defining AI has been a little like, okay, there’s a little of that we need to get into.

I think with the hype of all this happens, there will be a convergence in definitions I think in the next couple of years. And I’m trying to get our teams to communicate around what AI devices can actually do for users, whether it’s in commercial or consumer. And I think of it in there’s going to be personalization, there’s going to be productivity, and there’s going to be, I think, more protection and privacy. As much as that can be a little controversial or edgy on that, I think that will be the case. And so for differences between consumer and commercial, I think you’re going to continue to see the commercial devices anchor on the trust and the protected side of this.

Ryan Shrout: More security side. Yeah.

Steve Long: More of the security side will be important. The reliability, the manageability pieces and making sure that all of those can happen in a safe, secure manner, I think that’s going to probably be the defining moment for commercial. I think consumer, my take is, and this is all opinions at this point, but I think there’s going to be excitement of playing with a digital agent, or a digital assistant I should say and what does that do for me? Can that make my planning of my life easier? I think there’s going to be some applications like voice interaction and real-time translation that could be useful when we travel. How many times have you been here in Taiwan trying to catch a cab…

Ryan Shrout: Yes, yes.

Steve Long: … and had a problem, a challenge? And so there could be applications like that that could be very useful for consumers. And I think productivity will be a little of both. Can it make your life easier on the consumer side? For the productivity side on the commercial space, I think we’re really excited about some of the applications and I think that’s where we’ll differentiate.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. So digging a little bit deeper into that, I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit, but thinking about… ThinkPad and Yoga, what kinds of features and capabilities stand out for you? And I guess it’s a differentiation question, but it’s also kind of like the tracks that ThinkPad and Yoga are on to try to differentiate themselves and make the most out of the platform.

Steve Long: Yeah. Well, so again, for 30-plus years, I think we’re at 32 years the ThinkPad has defined what the commercial PC is. One in every three PCs sold is Lenovo today and one in every three PCs sold in the commercial space are Lenovo today and ThinkPad today. So I think we come at it from a power position already of differentiation. People know us for quality, they know us for reliability. I was in our Yokohama labs in Japan where the ThinkPad was born and there’s over 200 tests that these products are put through. It’s actually incredible. We make our own dust mites to replicate, seriously, to replicate dust mites in certain parts of the world. That’s how crazy the reliability and the quality that goes into it is.

But I think the differentiation really is also going to come from on-device how we can create experiences which are unique and different by our work with ISVs, which Lenovo has… It’s interesting because you see silicon providers talk about hundred-plus ISVs that they work with. They’re working with the ISVs and helping, but they don’t come to life until a Lenovo gets in the middle of that. And that’s where our relationships are going to differentiate. And then the other thing that Lenovo announced and you saw on stage with Cristiano and Luca talk about, AI Now, which is our own digital assistant, which is on device, which will coexist with some of the co-pilot features and actually augment one another. But we see some of that as differentiation which is unique to Lenovo right now. And we think that that’s going to give us an advantage both in consumer and commercial for that matter.

Ryan Shrout: I think the demos that Qualcomm showed and they were a little bit more future-looking type theoretical interactions with the AI clients and agents yesterday was really compelling. And I think many consumers when they see some of those demonstrations will think that some far-off future. And it’s going to be much closer than we believe.

Steve Long: I think it’s now. I think it’s now. And I think the other thing that happens with some of these… It’s now, I should say it’s possible now.

Ryan Shrout: Yeah.

Steve Long: I think like everything, the hardware gets there, software will catch up to what the hardware capabilities are. And if I had one message to all folks looking at considerations, future-proof yourself right now for what’s coming. I’m dealing with some customers who are dealing with workloads that were created, Teams or Zoom capabilities that started probably when we were all locked down in 2020 and started to consume things that you didn’t plan for on your devices that usually have a longevity of three, some people are extending life of these products. It’s like if you’re planning right now for AI workload things and things that you know are coming, you need to get ahead of it now because I think we’re on the age of a revolution.

Ryan Shrout: The other thing I wanted to ask, I’m kind of interested, Lenovo’s always been very good at platform innovation, materials innovation, super thin and light new screen designs, foldables, things like that. Is there any attachment to how the AI PC platform is going to enable changes like that? Is it just kind of complementary to it? Is it going to drive some of these form factor or innovations?

Steve Long: I think it will. Actually, to your point, the X1 Fold, we’ve pioneered now, we’re on our second generations of X1 Fold and these are foldable devices and screens that now can fit into different ways and jigger in ways that we didn’t think they could. And we’re very proud of those innovations. We’re going to continue to push forward on that. And I think what AI capabilities on device as these things get smaller and more compact, we can now make them fit into spots that we didn’t think could be things that were smart with PC-like capabilities or smart capabilities.

And imagine voice interaction with things. I start to see what’s the definition of a PC? It’s why we call ourselves the intelligent devices group. That’s literally, we were joking before we started filming like intelligent devices. It is. We’re devices, the devices group. And a device can be anything. And with a smart device now, one of the things that I have in my portfolio of businesses is what we called at our prior company the Internet of Things, but OEM business and Internet of Things. So I see screens that we can speak to. I see PCs that fit into terminals that we could voice interact with that have capabilities that we haven’t dreamed up yet.

Ryan Shrout: Very cool.

Steve Long: Yeah.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah. So speaking of that, I want to circle back a little bit about something you just talked about a minute ago, which is how you guys are augmenting on the vision of Microsoft and the Copilot+ PCs and where you take things from there.

Steve Long: Yeah.

Olivier Blanchard: Yeah.

Steve Long: Yeah. So again, Microsoft is a… I think the Copilot and Copilot+ features are going to be game-changing. We’re excited about that. We have been… I just came out of a conversation with our partners at Microsoft and Lenovo is a couple years ahead in terms of working with them and embedding some of the security features that they are proud about that sit underneath at a hardware layer, that’s a big multiple words there, hardware layer that integrate with our ThinkShield, some of our ThinkShield protection and we’ve embraced in that.

So we’ll differentiate on security, but I also think what we’ll do with Microsoft is in embedding, again, some of the telemetry that we get from our AI Now capabilities into Copilot. And we’re talking about partnering with them on how we can participate in activation since our footprint in enterprise is second to none in the industry. So there’s opportunities for us to do… We’re on a service-led transformation at Lenovo. That was one of the things I’ve been most impressed with at this company is organically they’ve created a service business. We have created a service business. And that’s exactly what Copilot is trying to aim to enable and we’ll participate in that revenue with Microsoft.

Ryan Shrout: It’s definitely an exciting time. I don’t remember there being this much kind of interest in the PC in, I don’t know, a decade, something like that. It’s been a long time.

Steve Long: Well, there was some excitement, but for other reasons.

Ryan Shrout: You just needed to get one definitely.

Steve Long: You just needed to get one.

Ryan Shrout: Now it’s… How’s it changing? How’s it going to be really changing our lives and innovating throughout?

Steve Long: I think you’re right. I think we’re all… That’s why, back to your very first question, I think it’s different, right? Computex is different. The buzz is different. People see the capabilities coming. There’s still little, it’s noisy on exactly what you’re going to do with it. Proof is in the user experience. That’s on us to translate. But the hardware’s out there. The devices that we’re going to be enabling and the capabilities of better performance, a lower latency with some of the NPU capabilities that are behind the scenes that frankly the user doesn’t care about but they will care about when they see what they can do with it. And that’s what’s exciting and…

Ryan Shrout: Very cool.

Steve Long: … why we’re here.

Ryan Shrout: Well, thanks Steve for coming out and joining us and sitting and talking with us. Really appreciate it.

Steve Long: Yeah.

Ryan Shrout: And for all of you, thanks for joining us. This is Six Five On the Road for Olivier and myself. We’ve got lots more conversations that are happening this week. You can follow us on social media and on YouTube and we’ll see you in the next one. Thanks.

Author Information

As President, Signal65 Ryan ensures the company provides valuable insight on competitive analysis, performance marketing, product positioning, and real-world experience comparisons.

With a focus on in-depth testing and nearly two decades of hands-on experience, Ryan has created a breadth of knowledge in nearly all fields of hardware including CPUs, GPUs, AI/NPUs, SoC design, memory systems, storage, graphics, displays and their integration into client and data center solutions and platforms.

He spent five years at Intel serving in roles from competitive analysis, to owning client technical marketing, and driving product delivery in the client graphics and AI division. Prior to Intel, Ryan spent 18 years analyzing hardware and technology as the owner of PC Perspective and three years as the Principal Analyst at Shrout Research.

Ryan has worked with major technology companies and their product management teams at Intel, Qualcomm, AMD, NVIDIA, Arm, MediaTek, Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, ASUS, Meta, Microsoft, and Adobe. His work has been cited and quoted by numerous technology news outlets and is a regular contributor to MarketWatch.

Ryan holds a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science from the University of Kentucky.

Olivier Blanchard has extensive experience managing product innovation, technology adoption, digital integration, and change management for industry leaders in the B2B, B2C, B2G sectors, and the IT channel. His passion is helping decision-makers and their organizations understand the many risks and opportunities of technology-driven disruption, and leverage innovation to build stronger, better, more competitive companies.  Read Full Bio.

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