INTERVIEW: Gigabyte aiming to lead in PC gaming: vice president

PC maker Gigabyte Technology Corp senior vice president Richard Ma and graphics card business division director Eddie Lin discussed the company’s product strategies in an interview with the media on Tuesday after wrapping up a mouse design challenge. ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Helen Ku attended the event

Mon, Jul 08, 2013 - Page 14

Taipei Times (TT): Why did Gigabyte Technology Corp (技嘉科技) organize this contest?

Eddie Lin (Lin, 林英宇): Over the past five to seven years, Gigabyte’s product design team has faced difficulties finding new talent. The team also found it hard to develop products that fully suit customers’ needs.

By organizing this challenge, we hope to solve those problems and to get inspiration from young participants and their innovative ideas for our products.

TT: How did the challenge turn out?

Lin: The event was better than we expected it would be. We received more than 141 entries within less than two months after our Web site opened for submissions in April. That was a lot more than we anticipated.

We were touched to see so many college students spend days and nights working on their projects.

Although many of the designs looked more like artworks than product designs, a great deal of them contained complete structures, which are the result of thoughtful product design skills.

These young designers are far more creative than we had anticipated, and such an outcome is really positive not only to Gigabyte as a company, but to the PC industry as a whole.

TT: The PC industry went through a revolutionary change after Apple Inc launched its popular iPhones. What are your thoughts on product design in the post-PC era?

Richard Ma (Ma, 馬孟明): As PC companies are looking to differentiate their products from those of their rivals, Gigabyte aims to be more innovative in its product design and to create niche products to compete with rivals such as Apple.

Here are our product strategies: In addition to enhancing the quality of our motherboards and graphics card product lines, we are expanding in product areas such as desktop computers for PC gamers, routers, tablets and smartphones.

Gigabyte now defines itself as a gaming PC brand and aims to become a leader in this segment.

TT: Asustek Computer Inc recently cut its annual notebook shipment target for this year. How is Gigabyte’s notebook business faring? Does Asustek’s forecast downgrade affect Gigabyte in anyway?

Ma: We see such revision as a norm. No one should be shocked by Asustek’s downward revision as it reflects the current [weak] PC market condition.

Gigabyte’s laptop shipments last quarter fell more than expected from the first quarter of this year, as tablets and smartphones are gradually replacing laptops and consumers are switching to smartphones and tablets.

However, PC companies should keep their faith as people will still need PCs to handle large volume data and complicated tasks.

As Microsoft Corp is introducing an upgraded version of its Windows 8 operating system, the traditional PC market should still see some growth momentum.

We expect to see this happen next year, when more PCs powered by Windows 8.1 will be put on the market.

TT: Some companies lowered their prices of Windows 8-based PC products from last quarter. Will Gigabyte adopt the same pricing strategy to compete with lower-priced tablets or smartphones running Google Inc’s Android system?

Ma: Trimming prices is not a good strategy for securing a share in the market because that will only lead to manufacturing lower-quality products. As a result, no company can improve its margin by selling such products.

Gigabyte is currently working on projects to manufacture more smartphones.

Specifically, we plan to make large smartphones with 5-inch to 6-inch displays and powered by Android.

Since many firms have entered the Android market, Gigabyte needs to find its own niche for Android-based products to survive in this competitive market.

In line with our desktop and laptop product strategy, we aim to make more gaming smartphones. According to our research, gamers actually need more than one mobile device to hone their gaming skills, so we are confident our mobile product strategy is viable.

TT: How does Gigabyte foresee its profitability during the second half of the year? What kind of smartphones can the market expect to see from Gigabyte over the next six months?

Ma: We expect our net profit this year will remain flattish compared with last year. [Gigabye made NT$1.55 billion (US$51.3 million), or NT$2.48 per share, last year.]

Despite the notebook market contracting, increased numbers of new tablets and smartphones are expected to offset our loss in selling laptops this year. However, given that average selling prices of tablets and smartphones are decreasing, we remain cautiously optimistic toward our profitability.

As for products, consumers can expect to see Gigabyte launch two 5-inch Android smartphones during the second half of the year. One will be equipped with a MediaTek Inc (聯發科) quad-core chip and another will be equipped with a Qualcomm Inc dual-core chip. Both will be priced at between US$250 and US$300.