Wed, Oct 15, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Firms line up for Cebit computer show

LITTLE RECOGNITION Government efforts to promote and develop home-grown computer brands, as well as software and service industries, have had little success

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite uncertainty in the global computer industry, Taiwan is planning to send around 40 more firms than this year to the world's largest computer trade show, Cebit, in the northern German city of Hannover, next spring. But there will be hardly any locally grown brands among them, organizers of the exhibition said yesterday.

A total of 703 firms have signed up to attend next March's event -- the largest contingent after the host nation -- up from 664 this year, but the only recognized brand among them will be BenQ Corp (明基).

Taiwan has made up the largest overseas contingent at the annual trade show since 1998 and has increased its presence rapidly in the past four years, according to Jia Dong-ping (賈東屏), managing director of Hannover Pacific Corp, which represents Cebit's organizers Deutsche Messe AG here.

"From just one company in 1982, Taiwan has grown to be the largest country at Cebit for many years now. In the period from 2000 to 2004, Taiwan has added around 50 new companies each year," she said.

But the government's efforts to promote home-grown brands and new industries -- such as software and services -- as Taiwan moves its manufacturing base to China seem to have had little success.

"Some big companies followed the government in establishing brands, but all of these companies underestimated the effort it takes to cover the huge European market," Dieter Neumann, senior adviser at Hannover Pacific Corp, said.

To become a global brand, companies need to pour resources into marketing and after-sales service. The Taiwanese have failed "woefully" at that effort, Neumann said, with the exception of a few firms such as Acer Inc, which is known in Europe for its notebook computers.

Taiwanese companies need to wake up to the changes, Neumann's colleague said.

"If I go back 20 years, Cebit was 95 percent hardware," said Joerg Schomburg, managing director of Deutsche Messe AG.

"Today it is 70 percent software and services, but still hardware is very strong in Taiwan. The future is in software and services. Taiwanese industry should think this over," Schomburg said.

An omen for the Taiwanese may be the increasing number of non-hardware-related Chinese companies exhibiting in Cebit. Of the 135 Chinese exhibitors expected at the show next year -- up from just 26 three years ago -- half are software developers, Schomburg said.

While acknowledging that branding, software and services are a "weak point" for the Taiwanese, a government official praised the success of Taiwan in exploiting its much-feared neighbor across the Taiwan Strait.

"Everybody is worried about the rise of China, not only Taiwan. South Korea and Singapore are also worried. But one thing that is not so bad for us is that around 50 to 60 percent of the information technology products exported from China are produced by Taiwan investors," Council for Economic Planning and Development Deputy Chairwoman Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) said yesterday.

Taiwan's order books in July also jumped 14.8 percent compared to last year, topping US$14.5 billion, with telecommunications and electronics jumping by between 17 and 29 percent, Ho added. A large percentage of those orders are produced by Taiwanese companies in China, she said.

Figures released from the Ministry of Economic Affairs at the end of last month show that orders rose 11 percent in August compared to last year, reaching US$14.4 billion.

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