Monthly Archives: September 2010

Social media gives voice to all

This summer, Apple made a technical pricing error on its website and it was noticed by a young man in Taiwan, Tseng Hsien-chun (Sam), also known online as Samtz. He blogged about it, and it became Apple’s NT$1 billion (US$31.25 million) mistake. The power of the internet to move the masses can be seen in this and several recent examples. These examples were the topic of a special report in an August edition of Taiwan’s Business Weekly.

Tseng, 31, a contracted assistant in a small research organization, found a design error on Apple’s official website on July 23. He realized that as long as three options were checked, the shopper could purchase a Macbook at a 60 percent discount. Instantly, the news exploded in the community of Taiwan’s largest 3C Web Mobile 01.

In a few minutes, dozens of subscribers visited Tseng’s blog. In ten hours, his blog was visited by thousands and within 20 hours, more than 40,000 orders flooded Apple’s official website in Taiwan, paralyzing the customer service lines. Under pressure from the people who placed orders, Apple eventually agreed to stand by their 60 percent discount.

Spotlighting the plight of farmers in Dapu

Tyrannosaurus (web nickname), 48, was an unemployed computer engineer for four years. After being dissatisfied with Taiwan’s news media, he decided to become a citizen journalist. In the past two years, he and his trusty camcorder have proceeded to make a name for themselves.

In 2009, farmers of Dapu, Miaoli County (central Taiwan), appealed to the local government not to turn their farmland into an industrial park. On June 28, the local government sent 20 bulldozers, escorted by hundreds of policemen, to dig up rice paddies belonging to the farmers who refused to settle.

Tyrannosaurus recorded and posted the video of the Dapu incident on his blog. And it was picked up by the CNN website. On the 34th day of the incident, some 2000 students and farmers staged a demonstration in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei. The following day, President Ma Ying-jeou expressed his concerns, and the farmers have since been offered alternative land as compensation.

In the real world, Tseng and Tyrannosaurus are just ordinary people, said the Business Weekly, but they have made use of different platforms to assemble the masses, setting off a domino effect against a multinational corporation and the government.

Modern networking at work

Now, more and more people are actively expanding their network to increase their professional competitiveness. Well-known blogger KDite is another good example.

She uses Google reader to collect the latest information from her subscription to over 200 international blogs about new technology, internet development and management. She rewrites and posts these stories on her site, which attracts at least 4,000 subscribers every month.

With growing numbers of subscribers and her networking influence, she was offered several management positions and finally decided to work at HTC, the largest smartphone maker in Taiwan. She is now a senior manager leading a 50-member team and earning four times her previous salary.

Alternative to mainstream news

The Business Weekly also wrote about Cheng Kuo-wei.  Five years ago when he was a graduate student at National Chung Cheng University, Cheng started to translate stories from Global Voices, an international community of more than 100 bloggers. He focused on blogs and citizen media that offered stories outside of mainstream international news.

His translations attracted a high volume of visitors and he was asked to set up a Chinese edition of the Global Voices. Cheng became a powerful voice in championing the down-trodden. His role as an information integrator led him to release news that mobilized bloggers. He now has one of Taiwan’s top blogs.

Speaking to a generation

Wu Da-wei worked as a young engineer during the day, but at night, he is Z9, the host of the PTT bulletin board system, the largest Bulletin Board System (BBS) in Taiwan with more than 1.5 million registered users.

Before, a talent scout would need to spend a lot of energy and marketing resources to cultivate a superstar, but now Wu can do it just by surfing the internet and clicking his mouse. Earlier this year, he posted an article on the BBS about young beauties at National Taiwan University (NTU) and National Cheng Chi University (NCCU). He coined the terms “NTU Thirteen Sisters,” and “NCCU Four Imperial Concubines,” which later became a sensation in Taiwan’s media. Perhaps as a result of his recent fame one of the NCCU Four Imperial Concubines is now his girlfriend.

Wu does not write often, but when he does, he is able to post topics of interest and controversy that speak to his generation. With his influence, he has served as a consultant for companies like Nokia, Microsoft, Samsung, Vieshow Cinemas and Fox Movies on how to successfully market to college students.

A leaderless movement

Chen Shun-shaw, associate professor of the Journalism and Communication Department at Fu Jen Catholic University, made the following observation about this new power dynamic. First, this is a social grouping without an organization, without a leader, so you do not know whom to negotiate with. Second, even though members of this networking group never meet, they have a common goal, and set rules. They can be mobilized for action in an instant.

“It is the largest organizational change since the Industrial Revolution,” said Chen. In Taiwan, there is no longer a need to rely on large organizations to mobilize a group of like-minded people.

New TECO director-general arrives in SF

On September 17, the new director-general, Jack K.C. Chiang, arrived in San Francisco to assume his new post. As the top regional representative for Taiwan in Northern California, Nevada and Utah, his position is equivalent to that of a consul general. Prior to coming here, he was the representative at the Taipei Representative Office in Norway. His new position marks the second time he has served as a director-general in the United States. From 2001-2004, Chiang was the head of TECO in Seattle.

Director-General Chiang has had a distinguished career with Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), serving in many US cities since the start of his career in 1981. Beside San Francisco and Seattle, he has also been posted in Houston, Chicago, and Washington (DC). In a career spanning close to 30 years, more than half of it has be spent in the United States.

In 2005, he became the chairman of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Affairs Committee in MOFA. Founded in 2000, it was set up with the aim of assisting Taiwan’s booming NGOs in their important work. Since the end of martial law in 1987 and as the island has enjoyed the privileges of economic success, the number of NGOs has grown tremendously as more Taiwanese people have focused on bettering the local and international community. Chiang’s office encouraged this form of grassroots diplomacy and assisted NGOs in their humanitarian work.

Chiang replaces Thomas J.C. Chen, who has been the director-general in San Francisco for the past two and a half years. On September 16, over 50 people went to the airport to see him off and to wish him well. Chen has returned to Taiwan to become the director-general of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, MOFA.

“Going Green” opens at Accident Gallery in Eureka, CA

The Accident Gallery in Eureka, CA, in collaboration with the Taipei Cultural Center in New York City, presents “Going Green: New Environmental Art from Taiwan.” The show opened at the Accident Gallery (210 C Street) on Sept. 4 with an evening reception and talk by the curator, Jane Ingram Allen, and the two visiting artists from Taiwan, Kang Ya-chu and Hung Su-chen. 

Kang and Hung, who were artists in residence at Accident Gallery from Aug. 23 to September 4, created a nearby outdoor installation as part of the exhibition.  Hung produced a work focusing on the importance of trees with “Baby Green.” The installation consisted of a fallen tree trunk suspended from the gallery ceiling with a tiny sapling growing underneath in a Petri dish. After the exhibition ends on October 2, the seedling will be planted in Eureka. 

Kang’s outdoor installation “Hero” can be seen along Eureka’s waterfront. It takes the form of a human skeleton wearing a superhero-liked cap made from plastic and other non-biodegradable waste collected on local beaches. This exhibition features works in all media by Kang and Hung along with 14 other contemporary artists from Taiwan. 

The pieces focus on global warming, pollution, waste disposal, loss of habitat, urban encroachment and other environmental issues. The exhibition offers local audiences an international perspective on environmental art and reflects the unique viewpoint and approach to nature of Taiwan’s contemporary artists.  In the past, many of Taiwan’s contemporary artists have utilized video art and new media to reflect on the island’s highly developed high-tech background. Now, more Taiwanese artists are focusing on environmental issues by using natural materials to reflect the natural world.

The artists and the artworks for this exhibition were selected by Jane Ingram Allen, an American independent curator, artist and critic living in Taiwan. Allen relocated to Taiwan in January 2004 while on a Fulbright Scholarship. She has curated exhibitions in Taiwan and other countries, focusing on environmental issues. She has also written feature articles and reviews for Sculpture, Public Art Review and other magazines.

The “Going Green” exhibition is sponsored by the Taipei Cultural Center in New York City and funded by the Council for Cultural Affairs in Taiwan. After Eureka, the exhibition will open at the University of North Carolina in Pembroke, North Carolina on October 14.

For more information about the exhibition, please visit:

Minister promotes the island’s “healthcare tourism”

During a September 2nd speech at the University of California - Berkeley, Taiwan’s Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang talked about the island’s healthcare resources and invited the audience to experience the island’s “healthcare tourism.”

In demonstrating the possible savings to Americans, Yaung said that the cost of performing coronary artery bypass surgery in the US ranges from US$70,000 to US$133,000, while the same surgery in Taiwan costs only about US$16,000. This is half the price that South Korea charges and US$3,000 cheaper than in Singapore, according to the Chinese-language World Journal.

Yaung said the national average medical cost per person per year in the US is US$6,714, making it the highest in the world. Yearly costs in Taiwan are US$982, putting the island in 14th place, after Japan and South Korea. However the cost does not necessarily reflect in American life expectancy since Taiwanese enjoy a longer average life expectancy than Americans. According to 2009 figures, life expectancy for US men is 76 and 81 for women, whereas in Taiwan, it is 78 for men and 82 for women.

Generally speaking, the premiums of Taiwan’s health insurance are shared, with 35 percent coming from the government, 28 percent from employers and 37 percent from the insured.

On his US trip, Yaung delivered a speech at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and discussed public health policy and healthcare issues with officials in charge of healthcare in a dozen states. Yaung said Taiwan’s health insurance is better than that offered in the US in many ways because Taiwan uses a single payer system. This has saved the island administrative costs, which account for 1.5 percent of total costs. In the US, the administrative costs account for 20 to 30 percent of the total.

Legendary opera star imparts her love of Taiwanese opera in San Jose

At the invitation of the Taiwanese American Center for Northern California, opera diva Liao Chiung-chih spoke to a San Jose audience about the development of Taiwanese opera and demonstrated various postures and singing voices to the audience. Hailed for her work as an opera performer over the past 60 years, she is recognized by the Taiwan government as a national treasure.  

During the August 21st appearance, Liao, 75, explained how Taiwanese opera differs from Peking opera and Fuzhou opera of China. Originating in Yilan County (northeastern Taiwan), Taiwanese opera began in the eighteenth century. A regional theatrical form, it is rooted in agricultural society where villagers dressed in ready-made clothes of that time. Wearing a minimum of heavy make-up, they performed in their spare time, with shows being seen at tournaments in front of Buddhist/Taoist temples. Taiwanese opera gained popularity with the introduction of indoor stages, and fancy costumes from the mainland drew larger audiences.

Under Japanese colonial rule, opera performances were banned, said Liao. The number of performances peaked in 1945, with over 300 performing groups. However, with the growing popularity of movies, opera audiences began to shrink, forcing actors to abandon the indoor stages in favor of performing in front of temples once again.

Taiwanese opera suffered another blow after 1949 when the government adopted a Mandarin-centric policy, banning dialects. This reduced the audiences further to only those conversant in Taiwanese, which was mainly the older generation.

With the re-awaking of the Taiwanese consciousness in the 1980s, some scholars and experts started to promote Taiwanese opera on school campuses and within communities, and to cultivate participation from a younger audience. For example, there are currently two Taiwanese opera groups at the National Taiwan University. Liao expressed her hope for continued government support for this native theatrical form, allowing this performing art to flourish.

In 1999, Liao established a foundation to promote and preserve Taiwanese opera so it may be passed down to the younger generations. Liao was invited to teach Taiwanese opera at the Taiwanese American Center in New York and briefly stopped off in San Francisco on her way home.

Taiwan-China trade pact takes effect

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China, signed on June 29, took effect on September 12 after close scrutiny and approval by the Legislative Yuan. This FTA-like trade pact, much championed by President Ma Ying-jeou, provides regulations normalizing cross-strait economic and trade relations.

According to the early harvest lists of the ECFA, 539 Taiwanese products will be tariff-free or receive reduced tariffs. According to 2009 figures, this represents 16.1 percent of Taiwan’s total exports to China. In contrast, only 267 Chinese products will get the same treatment upon entering Taiwan, which is roughly 10.5 percent of China’s total exports to Taiwan. This will give Taiwanese businesses a lift up in developing a Chinese market for their products.

Foreign capital is expected to increase after ECFA

Cyrus C.Y. Chu, chairman of the Chung-Hua Institute for Economic Research, explained that the ECFA is a message of cross-strait peace, reducing the risk of foreign investment in Taiwan. Using Taiwan as a base for production or operations will ease the business costs of entering the Chinese market and attract more foreign investment to the island. Citing the ECFA as the main contributing factor, Chu pointed out that Taiwan’s investment growth rate in the first half of this year increased more than 30 percent.

Vice Premier Sean C. Chen said, the “ECFA will increase the proportion of Taiwan’s export of finished products and help to keep the business production chain in Taiwan.” He explained that in the past, most end-product manufacturers asked their component suppliers to set up plants in China to avoid paying tariffs. After the signing of the ECFA, many industrial products will receive tariff reductions and no longer need their satellite component suppliers to be based in China. As an example, the tariffs on auto parts will drop from 10 percent to zero, making Taiwan most desirable as a manufacturing destination.

ECFA’s effects underestimated

In the Taipei-based China Times, Minister Christina Liu of the cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development said major research institutions, both at home and aboard, had pegged Taiwan’s investment growth rate at 2.9 to 7.5 percent this year. However, after delivering a 30 percent growth in the first half of this year, it is apparent that some observers have underestimated the influence of ECFA.

Whereas capital flow between Taiwan and China used to be mainly “one way,” with Taiwan investing in China, the signing of ECFA had changed this to allow more two-way traffic, according to Liu.

The minister expects more robust investments in the future, but can understand investors’ caution. Chinese investors are still concerned of potential double dips and are taking a conservative approach when investing. Also, Chinese capital investments in Taiwan are somewhat limited to the allowed list, but this will change as the businesspeople of Taiwan and China iron out their concerns. With most people thinking that the recession is over, Liu is optimistic that Chinese capital will continue to come into Taiwan in the second half of this year and in the years ahead.

Taiwan needs to sign more FTAs

Hu Sheng-cheng from Academia Sinica wrote in the Global Industry and Commerce Magazine that the amount of Taiwan’s exports to China accounted for 42 percent of its total exports, while Taiwan’s direct investment in China accounted for 84 percent of its total foreign direct investment. “If Taiwan does not sign an FTA with any other country, the ECFA will only increase Taiwan’s export dependence on China.” In Hu’s view, Taiwan should look for the US and ASEAN members to sign FTAs.

Economist Ma Kai stressed in the magazine, “In three to ten years after the ECFA, Taiwan and China will have to conclude a FTA under a certain name. Then 90 percent of Taiwan’s manufacturing or service industries will be completely open to China.”

Commenting on the ECFA, an Economic Daily News editorial also suggested that the government needs to sign FTAs with other major trading partners so it can diversify Taiwan’s economic and political risk. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s businesses should use this opportunity to meet the challenge of liberalization by making its products more competitive.

Four agreements to be negotiated

The Economic Daily News said that both sides should start to negotiate four major agreements six months after the ECFA takes effect. They include: commodity trade, service trade, investment protection, and the mechanism of dispute settlement, among which, the last two should be given priority. They are crucial to Taiwan’s economic liberation and development, but likely, much more difficult to negotiate than the early harvest list, said the paper. In fact, Taiwanese business people have been troubled by the latter two issues for a long time and the government must address them with due speed. With the ECFA now in effect, this provides a good platform for continued negotiation.

Opinion poll arrives at a “chopsticks” analogy of cross-strait relations

Last month, the United Daily News polled Taiwanese people about their opinions of cross-strait relations based on five areas: civilian exchanges, governmental negotiation, economy and trade, military relations, and the international community. Asked about the possibility of a cross-strait military conflict, the average respondent gave a score of 3.2 out of 10, meaning that the possibility of war breaking out is relatively low based on their subjective judgment.

With a score of 1 representing the friendliest and mutual benefit, and 10 signaling the most conflict-filled, many of the scores were slightly above 5. Civilian relations had the second lowest score of 5.1. Government contact scored 5.2, while cross-strait economic and trade relations scored 5.5, also considered peaceful on the scale. However, in the military and the international community areas, Taiwanese people still feel the existence of conflict and tension, with respective scores of 6.1 and 6.3.

The newspaper said the ratio of respondents supporting the “status quo” between Taiwan and China (meaning no unification, no independence) reached as high as 51 percent, compared to 32 percent ten years ago. Those in support of “unifying with China as soon as possible” and “maintaining the status quo first, and then unifying” accounted for 5 percent and 9 percent, respectively, whereas a decade ago, it stood at 9 percent and 20 percent.

Those who advocate “independence as soon as possible” and “maintaining the status quo first, and then independence later” accounted for 16 percent and 15 percent, while it was 12 percent and 14 percent ten years ago. Generally speaking, in the last 10 years, the number of people supporting unification has decreased from 29 to 14 percent, and the number supporting independence has increased from 26 to 31 percent.

In addition, the public poll shows that 42 percent of Taiwanese adults have visited China, an increase of 11 percent from ten years ago. Besides visiting China,  one out of three respondent said that a relative or friend in Taiwan had a Chinese spouse.

The survey also found that more people are willing to work in China. Young, professional and highly educated Taiwanese are the people who are the most willing to work in China. Among people ages 20 to 29, up to 49 percent were willing to work in China.

In contrast, less people are willing to send their children to study in China or consider immigrating to China. In fact, 65 percent would not encourage their kids to study in China, while only 12 percent would consider relocating to China, which remained unchanged from 10 years ago.

The United Daily News survey was conducted in the latter half of August among 1,001 adult Taiwanese respondents.

In explaining the results, the United Daily News used a “chopsticks theory.” Taiwan’s mainstream public opinion seems to expect cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China to operate like a pair of chopsticks. At some points, they should be separate, while at other times, they should come together. Chopsticks work as such to pick up food or vegetables. They should not always be joined together (unification), nor always separated (independence). In order for them to function properly, they must be brought together, as well as kept apart from time to time.

Top firms’ green credentials questioned

Long-admired captains-of-industry and their companies are increasingly on the receiving end of criticism relating to their “green” credentials, according to Commonwealth monthly. With a greater emphasis in society on the importance of protecting the natural environment and maintaining a good quality of life, Taiwanese people are scrutinizing the environmental costs of corporate developments and are largely dissatisfied with the lack of government scrutiny and thorough environmental impact reports.

According to the United Evening News,  in July, Taiwan’s High Administrative Court ordered the suspension of the third and fourth phases of the Central Taiwan Science Park after residents sued the government for failing to present a reliable environmental impact assessment for the development. The site was earmarked for AU Optronics Corp. (AUO), Taiwan’s second largest flat panel screen manufacturer. AUO had hoped to build its 11th-generation flat panel plant and solar energy facilities at the site.

Also in July, two fires broke out at the Formosa Plastics Group’s massive petrochemical complex in Yunlin (central Taiwan). The blaze caused a great deal of damage to local agricultural production and sparked anger among residents over long-term air pollution. Currently, the residents are seeking compensation for their financial losses as a result of the fire.

Even Terry Gou, the long-admired chairman of the world’s largest electronics contractor, has experienced the backlash of becoming public enemy No. 1. In July, after over a dozen attempted suicides at the Foxconn factory in China, a group of Taiwanese scholars and environmental activists blamed Gou. It was reported that a frustrated Gou is now rethinking the idea of re-investing in Taiwan.

Profit-driven mentality is incompatible

According to Commonwealth, it is not fair to portray business leaders as people seeking only to line their pockets while passing the cost of pollution on to society. In recent years, the number of companies giving back to their communities has increased. Within a week of Typhoon Morakot devastating southern Taiwan in August 2009, companies donated more than NT$3 billion (US$93.75 million). Formosa Plastics, AUO, and Hon Hai, the parent company of Foxconn each donated more than NT$100 million (US$3.12 million). Some managers even spearheaded fundraising efforts and led their employees into disaster areas to help with relief efforts and reconstruction.

 A survey conducted by Commonwealth four years ago found that the people most respected by the younger generation were entrepreneurs. In August, in a poll asking who would make ideal fathers, three out of the top five choices were businessmen.

Acer chairman J.T. Wang gave an interesting analogy, likening business to an animal and government to a plant. In the era of globalization, multi-national businesses search for the most favorable place to settle. However, their nomadic mentality is incompatible with the wishes of a plant, an entity that desires to create a better clean life in one fixed location.

Lin Thung-hong, an assistant research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology, told the Commonwealth that Taiwanese society is no longer as preoccupied with GDP growth as in the past. Instead, people are putting a greater emphasis on the type of lives they lead and whether they can preserve the land and lifestyle they know.

Businesspeople who are profit-driven and travel the world to secure the next big order might not be in tune with societal shifts at home. Although Taiwanese people still care about prices, they are also pursuing a diversity of values that can support sustainability too.

Government favoritism towards big businesses

Another reason big businesses have come under fire has to do with the preferential treatment they receive from government. Taiwan’s people believe that the government heavily favors corporations, from expropriating land to setting tax policies, there is a feeling that too many concessions are made to businesses. Also, often the interests that the government concedes are those belonging to the people, said commentator Nan Fang Shuo.

In Taiwan, salaried workers form the backbone of the tax base, with 9 million workers paying 72 percent of the country’s income tax. As a comparison, in the United States, salaried workers account for only 56 percent of the tax base, while companies account for the rest. Companies in Taiwan benefit from a full range of tax incentives and have seen their tax burden grow progressively lighter. In 2009 the 10 most profitable companies in Taiwan paid an average corporation income tax rate of less than 10 percent. A poll conducted in April by the Commonwealth revealed increased resentment of the government’s favoritism towards big businesses and the rich.

Today, more and more people are embracing a lifestyle with a minimum of impact on the environment. This has made working in outdoor settings more attractive than working in corporate careers. According to Hwang Jung-chiou, the vice economic minister, it is important for businesses to be reflective so they can better navigate how to best complement societal needs.

Acer, Asustek, HTC make Taiwan a smartphone Mecca

Three Taiwanese companies are putting Taiwan’s technological prowess on display in the handheld world of smartphones, reported Taiwan Review. HTC, Asus and Acer, three of Taiwan’s top electronics manufacturers are joining this competitive global market.

According to the International Data Corp., an international market research and analysis firm based in the United States, worldwide smartphone shipments jumped to 54.7 million units in the first quarter of 2010, close to a 52 percent increase from the first quarter of 2009. iSuppli Corp., another US-based market research firm, predicts that the worldwide growth of the segment is likely to continue, expanding 35.5 percent this year

Smartphones are getting more popular because they are not just cellphones, but also offer video viewing, internet browsing, multimedia gaming, e-mailing, calendaring, contacts, and global positioning system (GPS) navigation. With a slew of new models scheduled to hit the market this year, HTC alone is predicted to ship a total of 16.8 million handsets this year, a 44 percent jump from 2009.

HTC – from OEM to a brand name

The Taiwan Review story credited HTC for putting Taiwan’s smartphone industry on the international map. According to US-based industry tracker Gartner Inc., HTC’s global market share in the smartphone sector rose to 6.9 percent in 2009 from 6 percent in 2008, making its devices the world’s fourth most popular behind those of Nokia (Finland), RIM (Canada) and Apple (US), respectively.

HTC began in 1997 by manufacturing personal digital assistants (PDA) on a contract basis for companies like Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Inc. and Hewlett Packard Co. In this respect, HTC shares a common history with Taiwanese computer giants Asustek Computer Inc. and Acer Inc., which started as original equipment manufacturers (OEM) or original design manufacturers (ODM) before going on to develop their own brands.

As early as 1999, HTC began developing and testing touchscreens for smartphones, with the first shipment of touchscreen models as an OEM shipped in 2002. In 2007, HTC changed direction significantly, deciding to launch its own smartphone brand. A more difficult challenge was overhauling its business strategy from satisfying the demands of companies like Compaq or Dell to serving end-use consumers.

According to Taiwan Review, the company made a splash in the smartphone industry by launching sales of the HTC Touch, the first finger-friendly touchscreen smartphone, in the United Kingdom on June 5, 2007. Apple’s iPhone, which many people viewed as the original touchscreen smartphone, actually began selling in the US market on June 29, 2007, some three weeks after the Touch.

Fierce competition and rivalry

In the early years, HTC’s models were solely based on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS. In November 2007, when the Open Handset Alliance released its Android OS, HTC grasped the platform’s game-changing potential and launched the sale of its first Android-based smartphone in the US the following October. Since then, HTC has maintained its position as the biggest maker of smartphones running on Android with models like Hero, Legend, Desire, the Droid Incredible and Evo 4G. Next, the company debuted Nexus One, a phone made by HTC bearing its brand and Google’s.

In April, HTC unveiled the first smartphone with a price tag below NT$10,000 (US$313) according to the Taiwan Review. In the spirit of forging ahead, they hope to bring the devices a step closer to the mass market and break the stereotype that smartphones were only affordable for people with deep pockets. Retailing at US$247, the HTC Smart is targeted at emerging markets such as India and China.

HTC’s fast expansion has struck a nerve among some of its rivals. In March 2010, Apple filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in the state of Delaware as well as a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC), accusing HTC of infringing  20 patents related to the “user interface, underlying architecture and hardware” of the iPhone.

In May this year, HTC fired back by filing a counter-complaint against Apple, asking for an injunction on the sales of that company’s popular iPhone, iPad and iPod in the United States. In a complaint lodged with the ITC, HTC requested that the import and sale of Apple gadgets be halted in the US due to infringements of five HTC patents.  

Forging a strong brand identity in a crowded market

While HTC has remained the technology leader in Windows Mobile and Android phones, its weakness in brand awareness and economies of scale could constrain growth. HTC, however, is taking steps to improve its brand awareness with its worldwide “Quietly Brilliant” advertising campaign, the Taiwan Review reported.

In addition to foreign rivals, HTC also faces growing competition at home. Asustek Computer Inc., the inventor of the notebook computer, which has quickly won over consumers with its affordable price tag and easy portability, is increasing its visibility in the smartphone market by emphasizing navigation capabilities.

Furthermore, Asustek joined forces with US-based GPS device maker Garmin Ltd. in February 2009 to make and market smartphones under the joint Garmin-Asus brand. Garmin-Asus introduced just its third model in February this year, but the company says it plans to accelerate its release cycle by launching at least one new smartphone every quarter this year. While shipments for 2009 were “small,” the company aims to ship at least 500,000 smartphones this year, which excludes their sales in China.

In April, Asustek announced that American service provider T-Mobile would begin selling the Garmin-Asus A50 later in the spring. The A50 is an Android-powered smartphone that will deliver a fully integrated Garmin navigation experience.

HTC also faces increasing competition from Acer, which made its first official foray into the smartphone arena early last year after merging with local handheld device maker E-Ten Information Systems Co. in March 2008. Acer refuses to reveal its smartphone shipments for 2009, but says the company aims to ship 2-3 million units this year.

Taiwan has made steep inroads in dominating the information technology industry. Acer has become among the three biggest players in the worldwide personal computer industry, while Asustek has found a spot among the top five notebook makers. With HTC leading the charge, it is easy to see Taiwan becoming one of the world’s most successful producers of branded smartphones as well.

Taiwan poised to be a major supplier of green auto parts

With rising crude oil prices and an awaking environmental consciousness, more car manufacturers are striving to develop electric vehicles (EV) and capture a share of the burgeoning green industrial revolution. Now, a Taiwanese company, LUXGEN, is also stepping into this emerging field.

The LUXGEN EV+ is the world’s first 7-passenger SUV powered by smart battery cells.  The EV+ can accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) in 8.6 seconds, and reach a top speed of 145 km/h (90 mph).  The battery pack also offers a range of 200 miles from a single charge and is capable of returning excess electricity to the grid. Although Taiwan is too small to sustain a brand, many Taiwanese companies are hoping to transfer the island’s IT experience toward supplying EV parts.

Cheng Jung-ho, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at National Taiwan University said, “Electric cars are likely to restart a green industrial revolution.” A researcher in the field of electric cars, he sees EVs as a further extension of the high-tech market. If you have a product using over twenty microprocessors, ten operating systems and software programs to control all functions, with customers who can check the product’s performance by logging into the manufacturer’s system and a product that can be charged from any electrical outlet, is it a high-tech product or a car?

According to a report in New Ideas, New Tech, New Biz magazine, electric vehicles have revolutionized traditional automobiles. By removing the gas driven engine, gearbox, fuel tank, water tank, exhaust pipe, catalytic converter and replacing them with server motors, fuel cells and sophisticated electronic control systems, it is no longer just a car, but a high-tech application.

“Inside the electrical control system, you will see IC boards and electronic components, which Taiwan’s electronics manufacturers are so familiar with,” said Chen Kuo-rong, vice chairman of Luxgen Motors, a subsidiary of the Yulon Motor Company. Automobile electronics account for over 40 percent of the traditional automotive vehicle production value, and will account for more than 70 percent in electric cars.

The magazine predicts with Taiwan’s strong background in information technology and communication electronics over the last 30 years, it stands to win a leading position in the coming worldwide EV revolution.

By taking advantage of this new technology, Tesla Motors in Silicon Valley has forced the century-old automakers to go back to the drawing board. And this new starting point is extremely beneficial to Taiwan. At Tesla Motors, the international supply chain includes Silicon Valley’s technology research and development, Taiwanese electronic precision manufacturing, and Italian design style. After several years of hard work and development, the cruise control system made by Taiwan’s Gongin Precision and the electronic motor made by Taiwan’s Fukuta Electronic and Machinery, are recognized internationally in Tesla’s electric Roadster sports car.

The magazine reported that from 2010 to 2013, China plans to select 13 demo cities to run 1,000 hybrid and battery cell powdered electric vehicles for public transportation. That means China, strategically planning for 13,000 EVs each year, will be large enough to lead the definition of EV specifications worldwide.

The magazine concluded this is an opportunity for Taiwan to cooperate with the Chinese to learn the marketing specifications, system integration, business operations and service model of EVs in order to expand Taiwan’s EV industry there and in the global market.