As a blog reader, you’re most likely familiar with names like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer. How about Jonney Shih? If you have no idea who Shih is, you’re probably not alone. Currently there is not an English WikiPedia article for him, despite the fact that his vision and work are reshaping the computer hardware industry.
The article describes Shih’s company, Asus, as “Taiwan’s HP and Apple rolled into one.”
He [Jonney Shih] is the largest shareholder and chairman of Asustek (pronounced a-soos-tech), the $21-billion-a-year tech conglomerate that introduced the first netbook three years ago, ushering in a revolution in the stagnant PC industry. When it hit stores in the fall of 2007, Shih’s $399 EeePC was derided by rivals as a low-power plaything. But Asustek, or Asus for short, went on to sell millions of the mini-notebooks and soon vaulted to No. 5 in worldwide PC market share.
Today virtually every PC manufacturer on the planet, including Dell (DELL), Hewlett- Packard (HPQ), and Toshiba, offers its own version of netbook. (The exception is Apple (AAPL).) But the biggest netbook maker, with 38% of the market, is another Taiwanese tech company, Acer, which also happens to be Shih’s former employer. Asus, which had the market all to itself for about eight months, is now in second place, with a 30% share.
The following sentences at the end of the article are ones which really got my attention.
Shih’s instinct tells him that the “next netbook” won’t come from an engineering specification but from understanding how people use devices to communicate, get work done, and play. More than ever he is pouring company resources into design.
He pulls out a prototype of the forthcoming Eee Keyboard, an aluminum-clad keyboard with a touchscreen on one side. Via a wireless connection, it turns a flat-screen television into a websurfing, Facebook-friendly device. From his pocket emerges a smartphone that Asus developed with navigation company Garmin.
The Asus-Garmin phone has been a dud, and the keyboard isn’t out yet, but those items suggest that Shih is thinking about more easy-to-use, affordable products that are integrated as part of a digital lifestyle. “My competitors are doing their own version of the EeePC,” Shih says, “but I don’t know if they have the vision of how everything can work together.”
Key words here are “easy to use,” “affordable,” and integration. We’ve heard and seen another company focus on the first and last of these three terms quite well in the past decade. Can Shih make “affordable” go with both those other terms? The netbook revolution is well underway, and Shih has already shown his ability to creatively innovate. It’s not a stretch to say Asus is a company to watch under Shih’s leadership.
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