NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - In the back of my mind, I still think of Think Pad laptops as IBM ( IBM)-made even though I know they're produced in China by Lenovo, and have been for some eight years. Nonetheless, we may soon have Lenovo devices to consider when buying a top-notch smartphones. IBM-made ThinkPads have, for the longest time, been among my favorites. It's almost always my "go-to" computing devices, dependable for nearly everything. From the superior keyboard to the addictive, little red rubber-covered pointing device buried between the "g", "h" and "b" keys ThinkPads just feel right. Lenovo must be commended for taking IBM's iconic laptop design, building upon and constantly improving it. In mid-morning trading, IBM was up 1.3% to $208.38. Now, Lenovo is sending out messages that it's time to expand distribution of their other popular products - especially their smartphones. Although virtually unknown on this side of the planet, Lenovo's Google/ ( GOOG)Android-based handsets are big sellers in their home country. Although PC sales are on the decline overall (thanks to increasingly popular tablets and the much less popular Microsoft ( MSFT) Windows 8), Lenovo is number two worldwide in laptop sales (15.3%) right behind HP (15.7%) in the first quarter of this year, according to IDC numbers. Lenovo actually saw 15% growth in PC sales year-over-year and as well as a 90% increase in profits. They're also number two in smartphone sales in China. Samsung is far and away number one. Apple ( AAPL) is back in fifth place behind Huawei and Nokia ( NOK) . Lenovo officials recently laughed at rumors saying they were interested in buying Nokia. Lenovo is estimated to currently be moving as many as 5 million smartphones each quarter in its homeland. And, in the past few weeks announced they're expanding smartphone sales to nearby Malaysia Their latest model, the K900, released this month. Features a 5.5-inch screen, 13 megapixel camera ( Sony ( SNE) makes the sensor) and a dual-core Intel ( INTC) Atom processor. The official press release says the K900 will be sold in additional markets beginning this summer - and worldwide market this year but there was no official word on when or if it might make its way to North American consumers.
Lenovo obviously means business. They hired American basketball superstar Kobe Bryant to be the K900's on-screen, celebrity spokesperson. Lenovo gurus will need to think of something even more spectacular to create a huge splash here if they want to build a new phone brand here. Distribution will have to be perfect, the hardware must be be top-notch (just like their laptops) and they'll have to price their handsets just right to get buyers' attention. I'm guessing the experts at Lenovo will give it all they've got. --Written by Gary Krakow in New York. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.