He’s no Steve Jobs, but he did play him in a movie once.
In a move that can only be described as curious, Chinese IT vendor Lenovo Group Ltd. this week went Hollywood, tapping well known actor Ashton Kutcher as its newest product engineer.
The Two and a Half Men star best known for his slacker-stoner-womanizer roles will work with the company’s global engineering teams to develop and market Lenovo’s Yoga line tablets. And it’s not some no-show job for a high-profile star, the company assures. Kutcher will actually be providing by providing input and making decisions about the Yoga devices’ design, specs, applications and use.
This partnership with Lenovo brings together my love of technology and design that makes your life better,” Kutcher said in the official Lenovo release announcing his hiring. “I can’t wait to dig in and help Lenovo develop future mobile computing products, starting with the Yoga Tablet.
Kutcher, who made high-end digital photography seem downright racy in a long-running campaign of ads for Nikon, is not completely foreign to the ways of high tech. Over the past few years, he’s made a name for himself in Silicon Valley through his co-founding and active participation in the VC firm A-Grade Investments, which has provided funding for companies such as Airbnb, Fab, Foursquare, Spotify, Path and Uber.
“Ashton Kutcher’s authentic, creative appetite for technology and keen consumer insight combined with our innovation engine make this a very natural and powerful partnership,” said Lenovo CMO David Roman. “This partnership goes beyond traditional bounds by deeply integrating him into our organization as a product engineer as we look at developing the next wave of products.
“As we continue to push into new PC Plus product areas and lead in multimode computing, Ashton will help us break new ground by challenging assumptions, bringing new perspective and contributing his technical expertise to Yoga Tablet and other devices,” Roman said.
Bringing in a high-profile entertainer as something other than a mere pitchman is not without precedent among consumer electronics vendors who must keep a laser focus on usage trends and an increasingly younger demographic in order to stay competitive.
In January 2011, Intel Corp. named multi-platinum music producer and Black Eyed Peas, front man will.i.am as its Director of Creative Innovation.
A badged employee with access to Intel campuses, will.i.am is tasked with bringing his technical acumen and entertainment savvy to the process of reimagining the way consumers use laptops, smart phones, tablets and other devices.
“Nearly everything I do involves processors and computers, and when I see an Intel chip I think of all the creative minds involved that help to amplify my own creativity,” will.i.am said at the time. “Teaming up with the scientists, researchers and computer programmers at Intel to collaborate and co-develop new ways to communicate, create, inform and entertain is going to be amazing.”
And earlier this year, when a giddy BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins debuted the BlackBerry 10 in New York City, he introduced Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Alicia Keys as the firm’s new global creative director. “We are directly engaging with a set of conversations with creative people to inspire the future of BlackBerry,” Heins said of Keys appointment at the time. “We needed someone who is creative and into technology.”
Less than two weeks later, Keys got in social media hot water for Tweeting from her iPhone.