Photograph: Lenovo

The chief executive of Lenovo, the world’s largest PC manufacturer, thinks Microsoft’s decision last year to give away the Windows 10 upgrade for free was a mistake, he has told dpa.

In an interview, Lenovo chief Yang Yuanqing also explains how the Chinese-based company will continue to grow in a shrinking market.

Q: Did the launch of Windows 10 help to revive the difficult PC market?

A: Well, you know the numbers. Windows 10 didn’t trigger any growth in the PC market. Don’t misunderstand me: Windows 10 is a really good system. I don’t believe the upgrade policy of Microsoft was correct.

The new system should have been introduced especially to new devices which are optimized for the new Windows.

That gives the customer an experience they’re happy with. On the other hand, when you install the new system on older machines, the good experience is not there, rather on the contrary, problems often arise. Customers have complained about it to us.

Q: So it was not a good idea from Microsoft to distribute the upgrade for free to Windows 7 users?

A: No, it would have been better if Microsoft hadn’t done that. That not only caused customer disappointment, it didn’t help the entire industry.

Q: In this challenging environment, how will Lenovo meet its ambitious growth targets?

A: We have two approaches: On the one hand there’s consolidation in the PC market. Some manufacturers are giving up and getting out. If a company like Sony leaves the market, then that place becomes available to us.

And you can score with innovative products. If you have a laptop with a removable screen which one can also use as a tablet computer, you find yourself as a manufacturer in a market segment that continues to grow. This product category we introduced over a year ago and are very confident about it.

Secondly, Lenovo is not just a PC company any more but is also successful with smartphones, servers and storage systems.

Q: In smartphones you’re encountering strong competition. Do you want your new online brand ZUK to protect the business?

A: ZUK belongs to an independent company, not Lenovo itself. We’re focusing on two product lines: With Moto we cover the premium segment and with Lenovo Vibe the mainstream market. With these two product lines we can exactly meet the needs in different markets.

So in the US we’ll use the Moto brand almost exclusively. In other countries we’ll offer Vibe and Moto.

Q: Lenovo came under criticism in recent months because experts found software on laptops that they classified as unsafe. How did you respond to these claims?

A: We solved this problem some time ago. It was a mistake by us, I readily admit. But we’ve now fixed the software and have clearly committed in future not to install software that has security vulnerabilities. We want to deliver to our customers PCs that are clean and safe.

Q: Is it useful to install additional Lenovo software on a computer? Aren’t customers better served by having an unchanged system from Microsoft?

A: Definitely we can provide our customers with Lenovo software that adds value. But it must be very carefully tested. In the past our engineers have mainly focused on the software having good functionality - and with not as much care on whether it’s also safe.

But we gave clear instructions to our software developers over a year ago to give equal care to both aspects.

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