Sat, Jul 19, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Taiwanese firms start to expand into software industry

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's high-tech industry -- which has gained a reputation round the world for making hardware like computers and DVD players -- is finally making a splash in the software market, experts said yesterday.

"The Taiwanese are still strong in manufacturing," Claire Boyce, a software expert who has worked in the disk-drive industry for over six years, said in telephone interview from Germany yesterday. "But we are going to see a lot more software from Taiwan in the future. Manufacturers are channeling their expertise into new areas such as software while they move manufacturing to China."

Boyce lived and worked in Taiwan for nine years before her current position at a software company in Germany.

The problem until now has been that Taiwan's engineers have shied away from software development which requires creative skills that they are traditionally not strong in, Boyce said.

But the realization that high-tech products with innovative software fetch higher prices has prompted more companies to enter the software market in Taiwan, she added.

Figures from international research company International Data Corp (IDC) show that Taiwan had 60 software companies employing 781 people in 1996. That figure doubled to 122 companies employing 2,298 last year, and it is expected to reach 180 companies by 2006, representing 4,182 jobs. The local software industry was worth US$698 million last year and is expected to grow to almost US$1.2 billion by 2006, IDC predicts.

One area the Taiwanese are making a splash is in multimedia software, Boyce said, singling out Ulead Systems Taiwan (友立資訊), Cyberlink Corp (訊連科技) and GoldenSoft Technology Co (北軟) as pioneers.

Ulead and Cyberlink started developing video-editing software in 1989 and 1995 respectively, and Goldensoft has been providing remote video software for surveillance and video-conferencing since 1991. Goldensoft also offers software to recover data that has been lost to a virus attack.

Ulead has scored major suc-cesses recently with new software that allows home digital recorders to burn TV programs onto DVDs, according to the company's spokesman Dwight Jurling.

"The next generation of personal video recorders is shifting to disk," Jurling said yesterday. "You can now record to a DVD disk directly with software we developed in-house in Taiwan."

Developed over two years, Ulead's new software is on offer to companies who make and sell multimedia hardware, including Japan's SKNet Corp, makers of the MonsterTV home entertainment system, and Epson Direct Corp, which sells the Edicube personal computer.

Cyberlink developed DVD burning software three to four years ago, company's spokeswoman Manal Ma (馬慧嫻) said.

"Bundling our software with hardware products is a major chunk of our business," Ma said.

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