They are still relatively new players in the realm of smartphones and especially in tablets, but the gurus of smart at Lenovo are hitting the right hot buttons when it comes to convincing consumers and corporations worldwide to buy their products.

Lenovo, already tied with or just ahead of HP as the world’s No. 1 PC producer, is moving up quickly among the ranks of global providers in share of “smart connected devices” – tablets, PCs, smartphones – a new report from research firm IDC shows.shows.

IDC reports that Lenovo’s global market share in this relatively new statistical realm grew to 7 percent in the third quarter, up from 5.5 percent a year ago.

That 60 percent rate of growth was higher than everyone among smart device producers except No. 1 Samsung, which grew at a whopping 97.5 percent.

Given that Lenovo just recently began selling tablets and other devices such as the Twist and the Yoga and has until recently only sold smartphones in China where the company was born, the IDC statistics bode well for Lenovo’s goal of leading the world in Internet-connected devices.

Just as the company, which operates its executive headquarters in Morrisville, set out to lead in PC sales, the connected device leadership just might be achievable as well.

After all, how many people outside of Lenovo insiders even thought seven years ago when largely unknown Lenovo bought the struggling IBM PC operation that it would vault past Acer (including Gateway) and Dell while tying or passing HP?

Some factors weighing in Lenovo’s favor:

  • The world is going Android.
  • But Microsoft’s new Windows 8 and Windows RT could provide a big boost
  • Windows smartphones are expected to gain global share at the expense of Apple and Android
  • Lenovo works with both Android and Windows

Plus, what if Apple prevails in patent battles and Samsung must stop selling Android devices in the U.S.?

Tough Battle Ahead

But the smart device battle won’t be easy.

Samsung, built around a legion of Android equipped smartphones and tablets, dominates the smart device market with a 21.8 percent share, IDC says.

Apple is second at 15.1 percent with a 38.3 percent annual growth rate.

However, Samsung widened its lead to 6.7 percentage points from a bare 0.1 percentage point gap a year ago.

IDC noted that Lenovo shipped 21.1 million devices on the quarter compared to 66.1 million for Samsung and 45.8 million for Apple.

HP is fourth in market share at 4.6 percent, down from 7.4 percent in 2011.

Looking ahead, an IDC executive says he expects Lenovo to cut into Apple’s lead.

“That should not come as a surprise because Lenovo has sharpened its focus on the smartphone and media-tablet market segments, which helped it become one of the top brands for those devices in mainland China,” Kitty Fok, the general manager of IDC China, told China Business.

A look at the numbers shows the challenge Lenovo faces outside of PCs:

IDC projects that smartphone shipments will hit 1.4 billion in 2006 and make up 66.7 percent of the connected device market.

Mobile PCs are expected to hit 269 million, or 12.8 percent.

Tablet are forecast to total 282.7 million, or 13.4 percent.

Desktop PCs will make up just 7.2 percent of the market at 151 million.

Since Lenovo is, for now, strongest in PCs and laptops, it has much further to climb in the battle for smartphone and tablet sales. But recent statistics show Lenovo will likely become No. 1 in the China smartphone market – and “Lephones” aren’t even available for sale in the U.S. – yet.

So don’t count Lenovo out for the battle to be No. 1 in smart devices. 

[LENOVO ARCHIVE: Check out seven years of Lenovo stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]