Fri, Nov 28, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Group formed to push `digital homes'

BURGEONING MARKET The Digital Home Special Interest Group is comprised of over 80 local companies and will receive support from the government and multinationals

By Bill Heaney and Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

More than 80 Taiwanese companies have come together to share ideas, technology and resources to gain a share of the burgeoning market for digital products in the home, officials announced yesterday.

The outcome is the establishment of the new Digital Home Special Interest Group, which has support from the government and leading global technology companies such as Intel Corp, they said.

"This initiative brings together 85 companies in many different areas -- computers, communications, the Internet, electronics, integrated circuit (IC) design and content," said Johnsee Lee (李鍾熙), president of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院).

The market for digital products is booming. Last year, 35 million digital music players were sold worldwide, according to researcher International Data Corp. Forrester Research reported that in the same period, 66 million digital cameras and 76 million DVD players were sold. Consumers now want these products to connect together easily and integrate with other devices like flat-screen televisions, stereo systems and even mobile phones.

"Interoperability is the key," said Jason Chen (陳立生), spokesman for Intel Corp Taiwan. "Users want their personal computers, personal digital assistants, mobile phones and digital devices to talk to each other."

Now they are adding music, home entertainment centers and shopping over the Internet into the digital mix, he added.

One aim of the interest group is to make sure all these products can talk to each other through home networks and over the Internet, said Alan Pan (潘泰吉), general manager of the multimedia communications division at Tatung Co (大同).

Already there are 17 million home networks worldwide and 50 million homes using broadband Internet connections, according to In-Stat/MDR research figures. By 2005, this will grow to 52 million networks and 150 million broadband homes, In-Stat reported.

The group aims to make products for international markets.

"We are hoping to form co-operation groups in different countries," said Kan Wang (王弓), director of the government-funded Industrial Economics & Knowledge Center. "Major international players are taking part, and with them we will study the trends of digital home applications in the US, Europe and other areas."

But local companies need help to do market research.

"The government can help us to do research," Wang Chen-tang (王振堂), president of Acer Inc, told the Taipei Times. "Market investigations are costly and time-consuming."

Acer can share its global market experience with smaller companies.

"Some larger companies have a lot more experience and understanding of the issues, such as the cost of intellectual property, or environmental standards," Wang said.

"They can share these experiences in the special interest group. We need to make the information available and also easily understood," Wang said.

With flexible and fast reactions to industrial change, Taiwanese companies are better able to get products quickly onto store shelves, which is the make-and-break factor to success, Wang said.

On Monday, Acer launched its"empowering-technology PC" -- which aims to be the main gadget in living rooms from as early as the next quarter -- on which people can watch TV programs, listen to the radio, or connect to other computing devices such as their laptops and personal digital assistants.

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