"UMPC is a brand new category"- Interview with FIC senior VP John Villejo
[ Grace Won 2007-06-20 ]  
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TAIPEI, Taiwan (AVING Special Report on 'Candid Talks with Taiwan IT Leaders') -- <Visual News> Of the products displayed during Computex Taipei 2007, UMPC was certainly one of the hottest items to watch as Taiwan pc makers coming up with various compact but still powerful computing devices in different looks and features. Stimulated by this trend, FIC(First International Computer) also unveiled its 7-inch UMPC, which particularly caught attention with its unusual clamshell design, full size keyboard and communication features next to the screen. The Taiwan-based company also presented its newly-launched consumer electronics such as digital photo frame, GPS and PMP as well. During Computex Taipei 2007, AVING had an opportunity to talk with John Villejo, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for FIC.

Can you briefly explain special characteristics of your 7-inch UMPC ?

I think the first one is clamshell design and a full size keyboard. I think that makes usage much easier because, for example, other QWERTY keyboard is still difficult to work with, and for tablet pc, writing experience on LCD display is not as good as you do it on a paper with a pen. So, people still prefer typing, and the FIC’s model doesn’t make any sacrifices to your normal usage while maintaining touch-screen function for tablet version.

Some say that UMPC is perhaps a transition product as pc evolving to ultimate mobile internet device and it will be soon replaced by something else. What do you think about the future of UMPC?

I think the UMPC is a brand new category and since we’re from a PC company, we took a PC approach. So you may think our UMPC is a mini notebook. I feel it’s a reduced version of notebook, but we also combined communication and computer together. I envision a smaller device like Nokia communicator but more powerful – for example one with X86 power behind the mobile device. For our product, I prefer ‘UMPC’ to mini laptop because we added some useful communication features - for example clock calendar module, GPS module, Skype handset module, and 3G module. Simply put, it’s more than just a notebook. I think we have to look at different ways to be innovative and creative for the product line and with that respect I think our product marketing people have done a good job with this model.

I have seen several new CE products like digital photo frame, PMP, and GPS that I didn’t see last year in the FIC booth. Why did you decide to enter CE market?

In general, traditional desktop and notebook have relatively small margin despite of big revenue. So we have been looking for an item with bigger margin. CE products have smaller revenue than PC products, but the margin is a little bit better. That’s the reason why we entered into this market. Having researched in the digital frame section, we saw one major player Philips and the rest coming from different vendors from China and we saw big gap in terms of quality. So we want to position our product to have the same level in turns of quality and performance as Philips but with lower price than Philips. I think for product display here we have a Philips product with ours for comparison purpose and we notice that the picture quality from our digital frames is equal to the Philips product if it is not equal and our user interface is also very convenient and user friendly.

I heard FIC developed some exclusive technology for the digital photo frame products called ‘PixelGinie’. Can you explain more about that?

I think there is a lot of compression and decompression concerns in the photo frame. When you plug in your memory device into the digital frame, sometimes the response is very slow, or some of the pictures look unrealistic. So, our Pixel Genius technology gives special supports the images so that they look right. For example, if the frame displays landscape and if it looks to flat, the technology helps to sharpen the image. These are some of the key features that our engineers have been working on.

Are you now working on with any client? And when are you going to start mass production for the photo frame?

We will start shipping the photo frame in this month and we already secured a couple of customers with this project. For EMEA region(Europe, Middle-east and Africa), specifically we will supply the model to French company Packard Bell exclusively for the region. We are also in talks with another American company EVEREX for details. We hope to expand into Asian market but I think demand from US and Europe is still the largest so far.

Last year where there was serious surplus in LCD panel industry, panel makers were trying hard to find new application which they could add LCD display to, and digital photo frame was certainly one of the items and Samsung is also making digital photo frame. What do you see the future of digital photo frame market?

I feel this market will really increase quite a bit, I think we’ve just seen the beginning of the surge. For example camera companies and LCD companies will eventually all carry this type of product. So I feel digital photo frame market has a lot of potential.

What about the GPS product?

I feel GPS is also very popular product, especially for the after market people like to buy this and place into their cars. However GPS is a little bit tougher because we have strong brands like TomTom and Garmin in GPS market. There are more players in the GPS market than they are for the digital photo frame, and the market share is being dominated by two or three players. So we are working with the second-tiers and hopefully we can move up to the major player

When you do you start shipping PMPs?

We started shipping very high-end PMPs designed for professional photographers. Since it has a playback, you can see pictures after taking pictures and store them inside the player. It has built-in 30 or 60GB HDD.

Finally, what is your impression about Computex Taipei 2007?

In fact I haven’t had time to visit the exhibition since we set up our place in this FarEast hotel outside of the fairground. But from what I heard, I am sure Computex has become perhaps the No.1 exhibition, because we’ve seen some slowdown in CeBIT, and CES is not really just a PC show. for computer and pc peripherals, I think Computex is pretty much the largest exhibition worldwide. I feel the excitement and I believe there’s more attendance this year with more exhibitors. I hope not only FIC but the entire industry in Taiwan can also benefit from this year’s Computex. Currently Computex is spread out into four different halls, and it maybe a little bit inconvenient. But since I heard TAITRA will expand the exhibition site to Nangang area next year, it should be all under one roof so that people would find the show more convenient for both exhibitors and also visitors.

What kind of global-scale exhibition do you attend a year?

We attend Computex, CeBIT and CES. We used to have a booth but the strategy now shifted into just a meeting room like this. We also attend GTEX in Dubai.

Global News Network 'AVING'
by Grace Won (www.aving.net)

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