Having worked at Lenovo for 18 years, Tom Butler is currently overseeing the portfolio direction for commercial products. His work involves reviewing next-generation platforms and products that typically end up lasting 18-24 months in the market before the next-gen products take over.

In conversation with businessline at MWC 2024, Barcelona, Tom has shed light on successes, disappointments, transparent tech, and accessibility for the common user on smart devices. Tom Butler is the Executive Director, Worldwide Commercial Portfolio and Product Management at Lenovo. 

Edited excerpts. 


What’s been the biggest tech transition that Lenovo has recently pulled off?

In recent years, Lenovo has pivoted to a vision of smarter technology for all. For many years, we were a product device company. But we are focusing much more on a solution-oriented stance now. 


Could you give an example of your solution-oriented offerings? 

An example would be Lenovo TruScale which brings the ability to allow our customers to scale up or scale down the technology that they need across an entire ecosystem.


Is there something in recent years that you wish had made more of an impact on consumers? 

Nothing that I would say is missing (in that aspect). What I’ve been disappointed with for the past several years is having to go through a worldwide pandemic. That was not fun, but it also drove new technology needs, forcing companies to iterate and refine some of their technologies to work better.


AT MWC 2024, Lenovo launched AI PCs. What does the future of on-device AI look like for business consumers in the next five years?

Business customers are actively analysing their data to determine what insights they can capture, and how they can drive more productivity through devices. These AI PCs have the capability of actively running data visualisations. A lot of data scientists are using high-performance workstations to work on those data loads. 


The company also launched the Lenovo ThinkBook Transparent Display Laptop Concept. What drove that innovation?

I feel there is both a physical and social barrier when I’m looking at a laptop while talking to you. So, we looked at bringing in a mixed reality. 

Maybe I’m a city planner designing a building on a corner. I could actually look through the laptop and work my my design while seeing the actual space in the real world. And because it’s portable we’re not just stuck in a lab somewhere, but I’m able to go out and have a real experience. 


What is the kind of potential downside for transparent tech? For example, privacy is a real concern with transparent displays. 

Yes, that’s true. If we ever mainstream this, we would create the ability for the transparent display to also be turned into an opaque layer, when the user needs privacy and security. We didn’t showcase that here because it takes away a bit of the magic from a transparent display.


Could you share a bit about accessibility features on your new devices? 

We have actually added tactile touchpoints on our keyboards because we partnered with our product diversity office and a school for the blind. So we could have our blind user identify which keys are the most relevant, and how we should design these touchpoints. 

The second is the right to repair. So, we partnered with iFixit and did a complete redesign of the internals to allow for more parts to be repaired. If you take apart our laptop, all of our components have QR codes that take you directly to online guides and tutorials for easy fixing.