Innovation is a key word in the sale of electronic goods. When asked which company has the most innovative design, most people tend to picture an apple with a bite taken out of it. Apple is the most highly valued technology firm in the US and has, for a long time, almost been a byword for innovation.
For many Taiwanese companies, innovation is easier said than done, given their scant corporate resources and limited government support.
The name of local personal computer (PC) firm Asustek Computer and of Taiwanese smartphone-maker HTC Corp might crop up in discussion, but these are examples are few and far between.
At this year’s Computex trade show, Asustek took to the stage to tell the world its innovative design is as good as anything Apple may be producing.
Amid tonnes of the almost identical Ultrabooks and tablets running Microsoft Corp’s new Windows 8 operating system that were on display at Computex, Asus’ new Taichi Ultrabook series was one of the most eye-catching.
The ultra-thin Taichi laptop apparently owes its name to the classic Chinese book Yi Jing, or Book of Changes, in which the taichi is a principle of how the universe operates. Asustek chairman Johnny Shih (施崇棠) is well-known for having a strong interest in classical Chinese philosophy.
In the world of PCs, the Taichi laptop — equipped with double touch screens — not only serves as a powerful notebook computer, but can also be used as a tablet by folding back one of the screens. This new style of notebook was a hit as soon as the show opened on Tuesday last week, with people forming long lines to get their hands on the gizmo and try it out.
Embodying oriental philosophic dualism in the notebook series, Asustek once again proved its strong innovative design capacity after showcasing the world’s first netbook, the Eee PC, in 2007, which was the culmination of an epic search for ever-higher performance from the PC sector.
However, what remains most important is that customers have fallen for the new Taichi Ultrabook and that investors are buying into the innovative idea of combining laptops with tablets.
Asustek’s new generation of its popular Transformer tablet running the Android system and the world’s first Windows system tablet powered with an ARM-based chip were also exhibited at the show.
Asustek is one of the top picks of Barclays PLC analyst Kirk Yang (楊應超), who expects Asian PC brands to benefit from the launch of new Windows 8-driven computers and mobile devices and gave the stock a “buy” rating.
After checking out the PC trade show, Credit Suisse told clients to buy Asustek and China’s PC brand Lenovo Group tactically in the second half of this year, while it was cautious about laptop contract maker Quanta Computer, Wistron Corp and Pegatron Corp, given its concerns about the deepening eurozone debt crisis.
Asustek seized a 6 percent share of world PC sales in the first quarter of this year, up from 5.1 percent a year ago, International Data Corporation’s statistics showed. Local PC brand Acer, which prioritizes sales bulk over innovative design, saw its market share drop from 10.5 to 9.9 percent over the same period.
Asustek’s market value reached NT$216 billion (US$7.22 billion), based on the stock’s Friday closing price of NT$287, nearly triple Acer’s NT$83.77 billion, based on its closing price of NT$29.6.