That secrecy makes it harder for the Taiwanese industry to learn good ideas quickly from foreign and domestic rivals.
“They keep secrets and don’t duplicate, so the customers are happy to work with them,” said Chan Wen-hsin, a senior industrial technology specialist at the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Yet another concern for Taiwan lies in a brain drain of mid-career technology experts leaving for China from Taiwan’s universities and government-backed research institutes. Even the vaunted Industrial Technology Research Institute, which gave birth to global semiconductor powerhouses like the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) and United Microelectronics Corp (聯電) has been losing experienced researchers.
To be sure, Taiwanese companies are now trying to increase the pace of innovation. Also, one lingering cost advantage for Taiwanese companies is that pay for recent college graduates in electronics engineering and computer sciences is low and gradually declining.
Acer says that it plans to double research and development spending as a share of sales this year, by 1.2 to 1.5 percent.
Gregory Bryant, the general manager of Intel’s Asia and Pacific operations, said, “There is a resurgence of innovation and investment in Taiwan.”
Analysts say that Asustek’s innovations may not represent the same kind of big leaps forward as the iPad or iPhone, but may be what other Taiwanese manufacturers need to retain their role in the global consumer electronics industry.
“It’s incremental, it’s true,” said Tracy Tsai (蔡惠芬), a Gartner analyst here. “But compared to other device manufacturers, they are doing better.”