Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – One look at the screen for Lenovo’s Lephone tells something about the play the world’s No. 4 PC maker is making in the mobile device space.

The welcome screen resembles a four-leaf clover.

By the way, the news came on the fifth anniversary of Lenovo’s closing on the more than $1 billion purchase of IBM’s PC business, which led to the company’s headquarters being built in Morrisville. (Thanks to AP for the anniversary reminder, although a check of our files shows nthe close being announced on May 2, 2005.)

Rory Read, Lenovo’s president, chief operating officer and a former IBMer, showed off Lephone to the media in China on Monday. Lenovo spun off then bought back its mobile subsidiary in China after the market for smartphones and mobile Internet devices exploded with consumers and businesses buying such devices by the millions worldwide.

"The market in the smartphone space is just emerging in China," Read said, according to Reuters. "It’s just the beginning."

Lephone also uses another hot tool in the “apps” space, picking the Google Android operating system. Interestingly, Lephone doesn’t come with Google applications preloaded. Google and the Chinese government have been locked in a fierce debate over censorship. , Read said the choices for the phone were based on preferences of China users, IDG noted.

In addition to the Lephone, Read

How important is the mobile space now to Lenovo, which was already a world pacesetter in netbooks and other wireless devices?

"We’re doubling down here into the mobile Internet space," Rory Read said in Beijing, according to IDG news service.

Last month, Lenovo’s

Rumors also continue to circulate that Lenovo might buy smartphone maker Palm.

According to IDG, Read also said that its hybrid notebook with a detachable screen called the IdeaPad U1, and its Skylight netbooks will use the same Android OS.

Read demonstrated a variety of Lephone’s tools, such as multitasking, and the use of a mini keyboard. The clover features four fast steps for e-mail, chat and other functions, IDG noted.

Lephones aren’t being sold in the U.S., however, Most Lenovo operations and business action takes place in China, where the firm was born.

“When asked about plans to sell the device abroad, Read said Lenovo would first try to ‘win’ in China, and then look at emerging markets, followed by developed markets for future sales,” IDG reported. “He declined to give a timetable for sales abroad.”

Over the next five years, Read said he believes mobile Internet devices will make up 20 percent of Lenovo revenue, Reuters noted.

However, Lenovo faces stiff competition in the smartphone space just as it does in the PC market, where its shares has been growing over the past year.

Reuters noted that the smartphone space offers “fatter profit margins” than PCs and that analysts at IDC and Gartner forecast more growth in the smartphone space this year than in computers.

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