Computex Calling

Computex, the annual techfest held in Taipei, Taiwan, once again delivered the goods with a veritable feast of product launches that highlighted the importance of the show and attracted channel partners from across the globe

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  July 1, 2006

Five-day techfest|~|ctexfj200.jpg|~|Fujitsu showcased its lates wares|~|For five days at the beginning of June over 130,000 visitors descended on Taipei for the world’s second largest showcase of computer technology and digital entertainment. Computex sees many large manufacturers on home ground. The continuing development of a number of the largest Taiwanese players from components and contract manufacturers to brands in their own right was one of the most visible trends at the exhibition. This is mirrored in the role of Taiwan itself, as it shifts from a centre of manufacturing (with entire cities of grey 1970s factories packed and stacked together), into a sales, marketing, media and customer relations hub. As the country’s economy soared to its current level, the lure of economies of scale and cheaper labour saw a great deal of production migrate to mainland China. Computex is deliberately held close to the heart of this mutation, taking place under the glare of Taipei 101, the world’s tallest tower; a shopping mall, office space and centre of modern consumerism. Taipei 101 stands tall and defiant, breaking the skyline by a good fifty stories over any other building, as the new Taiwan shirks nature’s threats including earthquakes. And this sky-high confidence is echoed in the IT industry, which is relentless in its pursuit of growth. As the show opened, Dr Frank Huang, chairman of Taipei Computer Association outlined plans to move the show to larger halls and nearly double its size by 2008. “If you look at what we export today and the percentage of components that Taiwanese companies manufacture, it is clear we are number one in the industry. We think the average growth in computer and consumer electronic goods in Asia is twice as fast as in the Europe and US,” said Huang. Nowhere is Taiwan’s shift from manufacturing to brand-led development more prominent than in hall two (out of the five on offer). By no means the largest hall — but consistently the most crowded — hall two was awash with scantily clad Taiwanese models attracting customers, bright lights, and also home to the flashiest booths. Here six of the largest companies in Taiwanese IT were pitched against each other and the battle between Asus, Acer, BenQ, Gigabyte, MSI and Foxconn was as fierce as ever. “Our approach is to cover anything that is electronic. We started out with motherboards and VGA cards, and all electronic devices need a motherboard. So it makes sense for us to branch out. We are going into more digital home concept, looking at LCD TVs and monitors and digital home desktop systems. There are some of the big manufacturers in our hall but I think that just portrays us as the expert more — you look at our products compared to others, and you can see that we are the superior quality brand,” said Dan Lin, account manager, ODM sales group at Asus. Asus was also showcasing new kit at Computex, flaunting its new Lamborghini range of notebooks. Lining up against Asus on the starting grid, Acer was racing its red-topped Ferrari notebooks. “Computex is all about image. Acer is a branding company, not an OEM or ODM. We want to show our support to the market, the show, our customers and display the latest innovations to the marketplace,” said Frank Chou, specialist at planning and PR, branding division at Acer. ||**||Chip wars|~|ctexfconn200.jpg|~|Foxconn pulled in the crowds at Computex|~|The battle doesn’t stop with the finished goods, or even Taiwanese companies. Asus is powering its mean machines with Intel while Acer plumped for AMD. The two chip rivals were, of course, at the show and trying to outdo each other. Intel peeled off the covers to its first Broadwater 965 series chipsets, and AMD released its mobile Turion 64 CPUs, fixing dual-core power into notebooks, and its Live! PC digital home entertainment offering, challenging Intel’s ViiV technology (which has a similar aim) in the race to market. “The Turion Two offers up to a 40% increase for users who are multi-tasking and using memory intensive applications through higher throughput and better range,” said John B. Lowry, ODM and APAC mobile business development department at AMD Far East. Wherever you are at Computex it is never far from a bevy of attractive models, usually touting the latest line in extreme graphics cards. The 26th Computex exhibition was, of course, no exception with various armies of models — from the red haired ATI girls on rollerskates to the tall Brazilian supermodels at XFX. Also bobbing around the show were a number of promoters wearing Foxconn t-shirts on small scooters. This was the first hint to the component giant’s major announcement of the show: namely its plan to storm the high-end graphic market in Q3. “In the beginning we will only be targeting our range of graphics cards at the high-end and the mainstream areas of the market. There is a very big buzz around Foxconn at the moment. I think in the next two or three quarters we will gather even more momentum. Everybody knows the Foxconn brand now,” said Massarow Syen, marketing manager, channel services division at Foxconn. “We will be using our existing channel to sell the graphics cards. Graphics cards and motherboards complement each other so well that I will be using only our existing channel. My strategy is not to appoint any more new partners for the new products at this time. All of my current customers are the biggest guys working on a local basis, and we believe the best in their respective markets, so it makes sense for them to be supplying our graphics cards as well,” said David Shih, managing director at Foxconn Middle East. Foxconn’s traditional market, the motherboard space, also saw an action packed show. Some serious overclocking was to be seen, not least on the DFI stand, which flew in champion overclockers from the world over to demonstrate their skills. Computex was also brimming with a host of new consumer device products, with a sea of digital cameras, pocket TVs, MP3 players, peripherals and flash memory throughout the halls. As always, a healthy number of distributors and resellers from the Middle East were at the show, keen to eye the latest kit, establish new relationships, and get the lowdown on the vendor roadmaps for 2006 and beyond. Alongside Gitex Dubai and CeBIT Hanover, Computex cemented its reputation as one of the top three events in the global IT exhibition calendar. With Taiwanese players continuing to lead IT innovation, Computex 2007 promises more of the same. ||**||

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