TAIPEI, Taiwan (AVING Special Report on 'Candid Talks with Taiwan IT Leaders') -- <Visual News> Mio Technology, Taiwan-based leading GPS specialist, was one of the companies that entered portable navigation market ahead of others when the market just started to emerge several years ago. Since then the company has got recognition by introducing its mobile devices with integrated GPS offering satisfactory performance at affordable price. Now, Mio is one of the world’s top three makers of GPS-related handheld devices market together with TomTom and Garmin. During Computex Taipei 2007, the company presented its latest product lineup under the theme of “Explore and Discover the World Around” including its newest car navigation, portable navigation, GPS PDA and GPS PDA phones. It also provided a preview of its ‘Navsteadi’ high-precision navigation technology and new navigation systems with TV viewing functionality.
AVING had a chance to talk with Billy Ho President of Mitac International, parent company of Mio Technology, during Computex Taipei 2007 to discuss Mio’s recent performance and latest trends in portable GPS devices.
What was the achievement of last year?
In the second half of last year we grew pretty fast by introducing our navigation-based product and innovative product in Europe and we also had a big breakthrough in the North American market. We were quite busy because of the black Friday, thanksgiving holiday sales. We were almost from nothing, but during that black Friday week, we had 37% of market share, that was really a breakthrough and it helped Mio to be able to enter North American market, which tends to be a very challenging and difficult market. So, after that we were able to get 8% market share of the North American market, 8% is about No. 4 (in the market) and that was almost from 0 to 8%.
How did you achieve the remarkable result?
In fact, it was actually well prepared success. Because product itself is not enough when you sale products, we have worked out with channels, -not only the channels but also appropriate marketing activities.
What was the exact hero model in North American market?
Car navigation ‘C-210’ and PND(Personal Navigation Device) product. Car navigation is “C-series” and we also have “H series” for handheld personal navigation products for traveling around the world. We have two major lines in North American market.
Why does ‘C ‘and ‘H’ stand for in the model names?
‘C’ means car navigation and ‘H’ means more like human, handheld. There is some internal meaning.
You really did a lot within a year in the North American market. What about your business in Europe market?
Europe has so many companies in car navigation market. We are now ranked No.3 after TomTom and Garmin in terms of brand and we keep growing. Last march, we merged one GPS brand called ‘Navman’ No.4 company in the segment. Navman was owned by American company but originally the company was from New Zealand. They make different type of navigation like car navigation and marine navigation.
What was the reason for the acquisition?
The reasons were its technology, channel and brand for us to do business in Australia, New Zealand and also in Europe market.
So you’re going to keep the brand name Navman? You want to maintain two brands Mio and Navman separately?
In Australia and New Zealand, we keep Navman brand and other areas we go with Mio brand.
Do you have any plan to merge another company in Europe?
We’ve been doing our business with Navman. The merge involves synergy and cross cultural concerns, we’ve been doing our business with Navman for many years as an OEM provider.
BenQ, one of the representative Taiwan brands, recently terminated its BenQ-Siemens mobile business althouth they made lots of efforts for branding. What do you think about that?
BenQ is totally different from Mio. Mio was a frontier of GPS navigation. Four years ago, very few companies were there and the market was also very small. In car navigation, some Japanese companies were doing navigation-related business. So, we bring PDA to navigation, handheld navigation series and expanded the market) That was why the situation is totally different compare to BenQ. Because BenQ entered into a mobile phone market that was already mature.
As you said, the GPS market was small four years ago and there were few navigation devices. But, now a lot of small digital devices adopt navigation function, also content is more important than just hardware for GPS. What do you think about that?
Navigation applications are really various. Content gives a great chance to develop but ease-of-use and user-friendliness of products are also important. For example, Navigation used to have limitations because when you going through a tunnel or under bridge, signal is often taken off and you didn’t know where you were. But, with the introduction of our new technology ‘Navsteadi technology’, you will never be lost. This kind of new technology is a completely different and unique technology that gives user benefit. Our products also provide 3D map and real time traffic information. Now the traffic is bad during Computex period. but the services will give you data where I can get free parking space in this area.
Besides GPS navigation, GPS navigation ‘phone’ was being displayed at the booth. What is your strategic product?
That’s one of our product lines. We have four different lines; C series for car navigation, H series for handheld navigation product, P series for PDA navigations and A series for smartphones. Our strategic products are all related GPS features.
How many new products do you launch every year on average?
We launch about 25 to 30 models. And we still have 15 coming in the second half of this year.
Because of the convergence most of the small digital devices have those GPS features. What are the special features of Mio products against the other small digital devices adopting GPS?
There are thousands of applications and our products include innovative ideas that are accepted by users. There are thousands of competitors but it doesn’t matter. You know where we are and we know where we are.
Do you make applications by yourself or do you cooperate with other partners?
In terms of application, there are so many countries, languages, and user habits. So it depends on the market and we have different partners in different countries.
Actually I was lost because this place was Mitac booth on the exhibition map. I didn’t expect to see Mio brand here. Does Mitac not have any presence during this show?
Mio is Mitac’s subsidiary. Mitac is focusing on ODM and we don’t have any brand name of Mitac product.
Don’t you have any plan to develop your own brand for Mitac business?
No, it is not needed. There is no opportunity to win. We are focusing our existing technology.
What do you think about the advantages of Computex?
Computex is different from other exhibitions. Computex is a major supplier base of Asia. Asian computer companies are already major players of worldwide IT and technical products.
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