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Lenovo Want Ashton Kutcher As More Than Just a Pretty Face 101

Posted by timothy
from the or-maybe-he's-just-a-smart-dude dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "It's not clear whether managers at Lenovo were too starstruck to say 'no,' or whether the once-respected PC maker is having so much trouble hiring technical help it genuinely intends to allow lowbrow-sitcom staple Ashton Kutcher serve as both celebrity spokesman and full-on product engineer. Lenovo announced that it had hired Kutcher as a product engineer who will 'work with the company's engineering teams around the world to develop and market the Yoga line of tablets by providing input and decision-making into design, specifications, software and usage scenarios.' Kutcher – former Calvin Klein underwear model, star of such quality entertainment as That '70s Show, Punk'd, current star of Two-and-a-Half Men and, most recently, portrayer of Steve Jobs in the biopic Jobs – has a successful track record of investing in tech companies, Lenovo's announcement said as partial explanation for the arrangement. Kutcher also studied biomechanical engineering as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, which USA Today and other news outlets used to help bolster the idea that the star of Dude, Where's My Car? could function effectively as part of an engineering product-development team. Kutcher did list his planned major at the university as biomechanical engineering when he enrolled in 1996, but he dropped out during the 1997-98 school year. He did found A-Grade Investments, which has been involved in or funded tech companies including Spotify, Path, Airbnb and Uber, according to Lenovo."
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Lenovo Want Ashton Kutcher As More Than Just a Pretty Face

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  • Who's to say someone who knows nothing about the industry doesn't have some useful input on Customer Experience?

    Oh, sorry. Were we to also look down our be-spectacled noses at lowbrow actors?

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      I think they're just after his army of fans, why else would they call it the "Yoga" line of products?

      All they need to do is make the keyboard out of compressed bean husks and they've got a million sales lined up. All he needs to do is appear in the adverts holding one.

      • No, he's a product engineer. They picked him because they saw what he could do in the movie "Jobs". He sent it to them as his resume.

        • by unixisc (2429386)
          I thought they might have put him in product marketing, but they apparently thought even more highly of him. Anyway, congratulations to him - he now can ignore his acting career
    • by petsounds (593538) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:26PM (#45286229)

      Who's to say someone who knows nothing about the industry doesn't have some useful input on Customer Experience?

      Sorry, I don't even understand what you're inferring from your title and this statement. You're saying Steve Jobs knew nothing about the computer industry? The industry he helped *start* by building mass-market products out of what was formerly a hobbyist-only, DIY field? The guy who helped design circuitboards for Atari arcade games in the 70s? Yeah, you're right, Jobs was totally on the same clueless level as the guy who portrayed him in a shoddy movie.

      • by CaptainLard (1902452) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:00PM (#45286541)
        I'm not gonna suggest Kutcher is a visionary engineer but he is certainly not as stupid as the roles he plays. This is going to sound completely ridiculous.... but look up his speech from the 2013 teen choice awards. When you get over the screaming teeny boppers he is actually using his pulpit to give useful advice. You can hear the mood shift in the crowd. A good quote from the speech: "Opportunity looks a lot like hard work".
        • by petsounds (593538) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:17PM (#45286699)

          I don't really think Kutcher is clueless or stupid. I saw him speak on an internet panel event with the creator of tumblr and a couple other guys. He seems fairly intelligent, and has a decent nose for what will work and won't work on the internet. But being heavily involved in hardware product design? I think that's above his pay grade, unless this is the same sort of in-name-only product "design" as Lady Gaga being hired to be the creative director for Polaroid or any of the other celeb "designer" roles for technology companies. What makes this weirder is Lenovo's use of the term "engineer".

          • by Anonymous Coward
            I think that's above his pay grade

            The sad thing about the current tech industry is that hardware design, and engineering, are both vastly below his pay grade--literally speaking.
          • by artor3 (1344997)

            Product engineers don't need to get too deep into hardware design. There are several disciplines involved in making an electronic product, including design, verification, test, manufacturing, packaging, etc. The product engineers are the big picture guys who get involved in a bit of each discipline and make sure that the final product will meet the markets demand while still be profitable to produce. It's kind of like a halfway point between engineering and management.

            I don't know what his skill level is

            • by unixisc (2429386)
              Actuallly, product engineers are the go-to guys when it comes to hardware design. Granted, there are the desgin engineers, test, verification and other engineers, but when it comes down to one person who's responsible for delivering the product to operations to build and marketing to promote, that person is the product engineer. Essentially, it looks like Kutcher is the go to guy for the Yoga line - anything that has to change in any of the models has to go through him. A pretty good job really.
          • by djupedal (584558)

            But being heavily involved in hardware product design? I think that's above his pay grade,

            Not as a brand, and surely that's what this is about. Lenovo is trying to nexus Kutcher's appeal outside China to help smooth the path into hearts and minds that may never be tempted to give their (Chinese) brand a second look otherwise. It worked for Nikon, as just one example. They are already enjoying headlines over it.

            That, and they may have been forced to classify him as a unique technical asset (true or not), in order to get him on the payroll with Beijing's approval....

            I worked inside Lenovo

      • Jobs wasn't particularly technical, no. He worked for Atari as a technician, sure, but that's a very entry level job that any intelligent person could manage. He didn't "help design circuit boards". He was assigned that task once, for Breakout and he farmed it out to Woz. Jobs' success didn't come from any particular technical expertise. It came from charisma and intelligence, both of which he had plenty of. He mostly partnered with/hired extremely skilled technical people and used his skills to build a bus
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I knew there would be a comment well down the page someplace that was going in the direction I wanted to go.

      If he's bright and in touch with what people actually want, unlike the people currently at Lenovo, he could well make a contribution if they listen to him. And since people listen to celebrities because they think they're better people or something, they might well do so.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Someone isn't a fan.. I detect a little bit of bias.

    • by mythosaz (572040)

      Ya think?

      star of such quality entertainment as...

      Gas Station Employee: I'm starting to picking up your sarcasm.
      Richard Hayden: Well, I should hope so, because I'm laying it on pretty thick.

    • Someone isn't a fan.. I detect a little bit of bias.

      Maybe he works for Lenovo, and is dreading the day he has to say "Dude, where's my job?"

  • by turkeydance (1266624) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @05:42PM (#45285869)
    Hedy Lamarr (/hdi/; 9 November 1914 – 19 January 2000)[1] was an American actress and inventor, celebrated for her great beauty, who was a contract star of MGM's "Golden Age."[2] Mathematically talented, she and composer George Antheil invented an early technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping, necessary for wireless communication from the pre-computer age to the present day.[3][4]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chemisor (97276)

      Are you seriously comparing Ashton Kutcher to Hedy Lamarr? Seriously? You ought to be banned from ever posting again on any forum.

      • Despite some of the roles he has played, he's not an idiot. He's still probably more of a publicity hire than anything else, but I wouldn't rush to judge him before you see any actual work of his.

        • by readacc (3401189)

          Nah, he's not an idiot. I think it was more to do with the fact that Hedy contributed some very important techniques to the communications world that facilitated the development of mobile communications, where as Ashton's very knowledgeable about technological trends. Good for him, but put plainly he doesn't compare in terms of capability or contribution as what Hedy has, apart from the fact they're both (or were) actors.

          • I don; think its that off of a comparision. They make simular comparisions in the world of sports all the time. You take the two individuals one a successful one with a long career and compare them to an up and comming youngster. Not equating the two, but comparing the carrer trajectory to a certain age. That's clearly what is going on here.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          Despite some of the roles he has played, he's not an idiot. He's still probably more of a publicity hire than anything else, but I wouldn't rush to judge him before you see any actual work of his.

          Of course it's a publicity hire. Think of it - Lenovo just hired Steve Jobs! (Well, the actor who played him in the awful biopic...)

          I guess Lenovo might revive the whole "I'm a PC. I'm a Mac" ads...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The point is, just because Kutcher is noteworthy for lame comedy, that does not preclude him from having some talent in a technical field. For all anyone knows, he may be adept at tinkering with hardware. Maybe he's a software guy. You don't know. It's insulting to just write him off as the submission does for only calling up his acting. And speaking of his acting, he's done better, more challenging films than "Dude, Where's my Car?"

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's HEDley! Oh, wait...

    • by multisync (218450)

      If you're going to copy from a Wikipedia article and just paste it straight into a comment, you could at least respect their license [wikipedia.org] and provide attribution.

      • It's well-understood these days that any text written in an encyclopedia style and littered with citations[1] is lifted directly from Wikipedia. [citation needed]
    • by Xest (935314)

      I think in this case it's confusion of cause and effect though.

      The assumption posted is that Kutcher has a good track record of spotting great and successful ideas and investing in them.

      But I suspect the reality is instead that there's a lot of good ideas out there but most never get noticed and that Kutcher attaching his name and hence providing access to his celebrity, marketing, and finance network is what turns them from the unknown to the known.

      I've mentioned it here before a couple of times but Summly

  • !Steve Jobs (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @05:44PM (#45285883)

    Did they confuse him with the real Steve Jobs after watching the Jobs movie?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "I'm not a real product engineer but I played a very successful one in a movie... Oh, and I stayed at a Holiday in express last night."

    • Whoopsie daisy.
    • by fermion (181285)
      That what I thought. It is like hiring Hugh Laurie to be your doctor, or plan your military Armageddon, or even better, be your prince regent.
  • by themushroom (197365) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @05:47PM (#45285897) Homepage

    Instead of "Dude, you got a Dell!" it's "Dude, you got punked with a Lenovo!"

    A computer to appeal to its older users, heh heh.

  • by martiniturbide (1203660) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @05:52PM (#45285937) Homepage Journal
    Ashton, please don't forget the unlock the bootlader of Lenovo Android Products.
    http://martin.iturbide.com/2013/07/why-you-have-to-stay-away-of-locked.html [iturbide.com]

    I'm sure Ashton gets it, because Lenovo's QA team told me they can't do it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • Good For Him (Score:5, Interesting)

    by organgtool (966989) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:01PM (#45286029)
    I'm not a fan of his movies nor do I subscribe to his fanboyism of Apple, but Ashton Kutcher follows technology more than any movie/tv star that I know of. I'm definitely curious to see how he pans out in this position.
  • I can see it now. Expect helpful input like "This thing is sweet!" or "That screen rocks!" Good luck, Lenovo engineers.
  • the once-respected PC maker

    When was Lenovo ever respected?

    • by steveg (55825)

      The first several years that they built the Thinkpad.

    • by Clsid (564627)

      They make good PCs and are kind of like the only profitable PC vendor. We used their workstations at work and they were the exact same thing as Dell back in the day as far as we were concerned.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    or they'd know all about The Homer (http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/The_Homer [wikia.com]).

    Those who do not pay attention to history are doomed to drive in it.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:41PM (#45286367)

    Lots of people "study" engineering in college, then drop out after 2-3 semesters. From the article it looks like he made it 4-5? I recall some other musician being hired years back (Will I. Am?) as a PR stunt. Investing in tech companies doesn't imply tech knowledge either.

  • star of such quality entertainment as That '70s Show

    that is actually a quality series, as far as sitcoms go. dude, where's my car was pretty darn funny as well.

  • It's been a while since comments on a single article dripped with so much sarcasm.  Keep laying it on.  Thicker. LOL
  • by Anonymous Coward

    While I think it's valid to question what he would bring to the table (and he may bring great ideas, or he may bring no ideas. There's not a clear track record on this.), I'm curious why the author needed to mock the man when posting this summary. That doesn't feel particularly relevant or useful to aid in the conversation.

  • soldiering.

  • Despite all the comments that point to them confusing him with Jobs (hehe), I think this is a pretty solid move.

    Clearly, they plan to do some subconcious marketing stuff by linking people's impressions of him with their own brand.

    And who do they want the most? Apple users! And would Apple users have watched the Jobs movie? Most definitely! So, even if obviously Ashton is just some cool actor and not Jobs, they will see him and associate Apple with Lenovo.
  • by istartedi (132515) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:50PM (#45286955) Journal

    Sounds like somebody can't stand the idea that there might be people in this world who have brains *and* good looks. Maybe he's like a male version of Hedy Lamarr [wikipedia.org]

    • by Sique (173459)
      Or to compare him with another sitcom actor: Mayim Bialik [imdb.com], despite playing a neurologist in a sitcom, has an actual PhD in neurology.
  • I didn't know that Ashton Kutcher was a tech investor. Too bad we don't know how large or how deeply he was involved with the companies listed. It would be useful information to gauge this new endeavor. I wonder though, does Lenovo need technical assistance, or an artist? Technical specs are fine (and the Yoga tablet doesn't sound like a power house) but an ugly interface is the kiss of death. People spend far too much for Apple products. Why? They work well (enough) and they like the interface (Appl

  • So What? (Score:2, Informative)

    by brunes69 (86786)

    Giving celebrities fake jobs at companies that they do nothing for except sell product as a PR stunt is all the rage right now.

    Will.I.Am is a "Creative Director" at Intel

    Alicia Keys is a "Creative Director" at Blackberry

    Justin Timberlake is a "Creative Curator" for Anheuser-Busch

    Lady Gaga is a "Creative Director" for Polaroid

    The only "news" in this story is that Slashdot editors don't keep up to speed on social norms.

    • Don't forget the old Apple Masters [wikipedia.org] program as well. Though they didn't have jobs, they were very public about their use of Apple hardware (which was given to them, of course).

  • by Radical Moderate (563286) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @11:57PM (#45288187)
    if he has half a brain. Bought a Lenovo Twist last year, the thing's a disaster. The screen randomly dims itself, then brightens again, or not, depending on its mood. It's a laptop/tablet, but the orientation sensor is wonky, so sometimes it insists on displaying upside down, you have to futz with it for 10 minutes to get it right. Firmware updates haven't helped, and these problems are fairly common from what I see on das tubes. And the trackpad is a joke compared to my Macbook.

    The thing feels like it was rushed out with no QC. I'm not sure hiring Ashton Kutcher will help, but it couldn't hoit.
  • it more like those 'celebrity-branded' clothing, watches, shoes...etc. where they help 'design' the stuff. Seriously, 2nd year drop out eng. students will at most fit a hardware verification job.
  • Apparently they think he literally channelled Jobs in his portrayal, and that he has acquired the Wisdom of Job(s) to lead a company to greatness.

    Boy are they ever going to be disappointed when they realize he's just a schmuck actor playing a role with none of the wisdom or intelligence of the character being portrayed.

  • Lenovo is still the best PC maker in my mind. Thinkpads all the way!
  • At least Lenovo is trying something different. Why not at least listen to the views of a very successful young person? We all know the current engineering teams at Lenovo (and pretty much every other PC brand) have been completely failing to design a good laptop lately.

    When IBM owned Thinkpad, they were the definitive best professional laptop. Some people used to say that Mac made the best laptop - but it was usually countered with, "Then you've never used a Thinkpad." Now, Mac has definitively the best lap

  • Kutcher plays Jobs in a movie, then works for the renamed IBM PC company. IBM sold their PC division to Chinese Lenevo.
  • This entire thread consists of people spewing about how someone they don't like could never be successful. A few voices point out that there is a background in Kucher's life that might indicate hidden talents.

    But No, a comedian and television star could never do as well as those of us whom no one has heard of or knows the posters insist. He's not a "good fit with the culture."

    maybe that is why the "culture" is doing such a piss poor job of producing laptops that people actually want or are willing to buy.

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