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.
“It’s somewhat of a dual role,” Kutcher told USAToday in a phone interview Oct. 29.
Lenovo announced that it had hired Kutcher as a product engineer who will “work with the copany’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 after winning a modeling competition and moving to New York City.
In college “I played way too hard. I am amazed I am not dead,” Kutcher told Cosmopolitan magazine in 2001.
He did found A-Grade Investments, which has been involved in or funded tech companies including Sporify, Path, Airbnb and Uber, according to Lenovo.
“This partnership goes beyond traditional bounds [of celebrity spokespersonhood, presumably] by deeply integrating him into our organization as a product engineer as we look at developing the next wave of products,” according to quotes in the announcement from David Roman, chief marketing officer at Lenovo. “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.”
Kutcher will reportedly challenge assumptions by helping shape the future of Lenovo’s newly announced Yoga Tablet – for which Lenovo claims an 18-hour battery life, but brags more about the machine’s ability to be carried like a tablet, tilted almost flat on a table to be used like a laptop, or stand like a tent to let its owners watch videos from Kutcher’s oeuvre.
The eight-inch version lists for $249 and the 10-inch for $299, though the 1280 X 800 resolution on the screens and support for Android 4.2.2 rather than 4.3 shows where Lenovo made engineering compromises to keep costs down, according to ABCNews.
The Yoga goes on sale Oct. 30, in direct competition with the better-established, more-heavily-promoted Kindle Fire HDX from Amazon, Microsoft’s Surface 2 and Apple’s iPad Air, which goes on sale Nov. 1.
“This partnership with Lenovo brings together my love of technology and design that makes your life better,” Lenovo quoted Kutcher as saying in the announcement. “I can’t wait to dig in and help Lenovo develop future mobile computing products, starting with the Yoga Tablet.”
Slashdot will monitor the “partnership” and report any sign that Kutcher has had any direct impact on engineering decisions.