If Lenovo has a “parent” in its rise as a global technology powerhouse, it’s IBM.

After all, Big Blue’s sale of its PC division to Lenovo in 2005 took the China-born company international.

Now, Lenovo is trying to buy IBM’s x86 server business and Google’s Motorola Mobility to accelerate growth in servers and smartphones.

So what does IBM do as Lenovo grows as a threat to Apple?

By the way, BlackBerry, which maintains an R&D operation in the Triangle, already is caught up in fallout from the deal.

The first thought that hit The Skinny when news of the Apple-IBM marketing, services and sales deal broke was: Wow, what does this mean for Lenovo?

Inside the IBM-Apple deal:

  • Former enemies, now allies as IBM, Apple team up
  • Analysis: IBM, Apple both win in deal
  • Apple-IBM joint press release
  • Details of IBM-Apple agreement

From WRAL TechWire archives:

  • Nearly 10 years of Lenovo stories dating to acquisition of IBM PC division
  • More than a decade of IBM stories

The world’s No. 1 PC manufacturer, which operates its global executive headquarters in Morrisville, is growing fast in North America and just surged passed Apple in computer sales. The pending Motorola Mobility deal will make Lenovo a smartphone player in the U.S. and Europe.

IBM’s x86 server business is suffering, so in a sense Lenovo is helping Big Blue further exit the hardware business in favor of software by acquiring the x86 group (pending U.S. government approval, of course.)

Yet here is IBM (NYSE: IBM) allying with Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) in a deal that would have been considered impossible just a few years ago.

Here’s the question I posed to Ezra Gottheil, principal analyst at Technology Business Research who praised the Apple-IBM deal as a winner for both firms:

“I was wondering if this deal could be perceived as a slap at Lenovo, which offers its own smartphones, is getting into app development, obviously has world-leading tablets/PCs, and soon will have smartphone beachhead in US/Europe when/if the Google Motorola Mobility deal wins approval.

“Given Lenovo’s increasing challenge to Apple on multiple fronts – I can’t image Lenovo is happy.

“What do you think?”

Ezra’s reply:

“I don’t think this is particularly aimed at Lenovo, but as a vendor of Android and Windows tablets and phones, Lenovo is one of the implied targets.

“I don’t think the effect on the Android and Windows platforms or on the device vendors will be great, so I don’t think Lenovo cares very much.

“This is really about IBM’s analytics solutions.”

However Gottheil wonders if IBM won’t offer non-Apple apps at some point to further its mobile device support reach.

“The exclusive part is, I think, AppleCare Enterprise, the service support package,” he wrote.

“I would imagine that IBM will want to offer Android and Windows client apps that work with their analytics back ends, much as vendors like Oracle and SAP do.”

BlackBerry is Hurt

BlackBerry (Nasdaq: BBRY) did get hurt with its stock falling more than 10 percent.

William Blair analyst Anil Doradla described the Apple and IBM partnership as a “long-term negative” for BlackBerry, according to The Associated Press.

“In the likely scenario of Apple/IBM doing well in servicing the needs of enterprise customers, we see little reason for enterprises to choose BlackBerry’s platform over Apple’s,” he wrote in a note.

But a BlackBerry spokesperson told the AP the move “only underscores the ongoing need for secure end-to-end enterprise mobility solutions like those BlackBerry has delivered for years.”

Other Analysts’ Reaction

Financial news website SeekingAlpha offered a nice roundup of analysts’ reaction to the Apple-Lenovo deal, including one who picked up on Ezra’s point about IBM and Android:

  • The Apple (AAPL +1.2%)/IBM (IBM +2.4%) deal is a “landmark agreement,” that gives Apple “enterprise capabilities and credibility at one stroke,” says Forrester’s Frank Gillett. He notes that while the BYOD trend has bolstered Apple’s enterprise presence, the company has until now “resisted servicing enterprises” out of fear of hurting its user experience.
  • Endpoint Technologies’ Roger Kay: “What [the deal] allows Apple to do is not change its philosophy and lay off to IBM the whole issue of, how do you make iPhones work for IT managers who actually want to be treated like a valued customer.”
  • RBC and Canaccord both think iPhone sales could get a boost; the former is also upbeat about the premium AppleCare service that will be developed. Baird thinks the deal “could help AAPL cement iOS as the preferred platform for enterprise.”
  • Piper’s Gene Munster, however, doesn’t see a huge hardware impact. “We note that if half of the Fortune 500 were to each purchase an incremental 2,000 iPhones and 1,000 iPads above what they were planning to purchase … it would mean about a half a percent to CY15 revenue.” He also expects IBM to eventually offer similar Android solutions.