Ashton Kutcher played Steve Jobs in a film biopic released earlier this year, but does that mean he can design tech products like the iconic Apple founder?
The world is about to find out.
Chinese tech powerhouse Lenovo announced last week that it's hired Kutcher to be a “product engineer” for its new Yoga tablet computer. Lenovo is the world's biggest PC maker, but like all companies whose bread-and-butter has been cranking out PC-related hardware and software, Lenovo will need to focus more and more on mobile devices – essentially anything related to smartphones and tablet computers.
What is it exactly that Kutcher will bring? His handsome celebrity face, for one thing, which is the usual reason companies associate themselves with celebrities. But while the "Dude, Where's My Car?" and “Two and a Half Men” star will serve as the celebrity face of the Yoga, Kutcher may actually have more to offer the company than mere good looks.
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Kutcher has no formal background in product design or engineering, but he's known to be tech savvy – savvy enough to have made investments in startup tech companies such as Skype, AirBNB and Foursquare. He even has his own venture capital firm, A-Grade Investments, which has at least 16 active investments worth almost $66 million. In short, what Kutcher seems to bring Lenovo is more than just youthful appeal and good looks.
The same probably can't be said of other celebrities who have been hired by tech companies for positions other than just straight out product pitcher. Earlier this year, BlackBerry introduced singer Alicia Keys as its “Global Creative Director.”
“In her new role, Keys will work closely with app developers, content creators, retailers, carriers and the entertainment community to further shape and enhance the BlackBerry 10 platform,” the company said in a press release at the time. Just days later, the singer, who in 2012 described herself as an iPhone junkie, had a post appear on her Twitter account from an iPhone, though she said her account was hacked.
Two years ago, Intel hired singer-songwriter, recording artist, and record producer Will.i.am as its director of creative innovation. And three years ago singer and outré performer Lady Gaga joined Polaroid as its creative director.
While all are clearly entertainment superstars, it's less evident what these three celebrities have to offer as tech superstars. No matter what job celebrities are hired for on paper, though, it's fair to say that corporations realistically expect little more than the ability to tie a pretty or recognizable face to a product. And there's little doubt that the right pairing of a product and a square jaw or curvy figure can boost sales.
It's probably safe to say that Ashton Kutcher won't be the next Steve Jobs, for Lenovo or any other tech company he gets involved with, but as far as Hollywood film plots go, this has the potential to be a good one. So get your popcorn, grab your seat and enjoy the show.