Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look
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Tet-a-tet. Clare Fan on the future of Gigabyte
Interview with Gigabyte’s Managing Director (Overseas Sales & Marketing Division)
A.L. My first question may come as a surprise to you. Gigabyte has been experiencing some difficulties with what seems to be such a trivial thing at a glance – the way your company’s name is spelled. We noticed this strange tendency about Gigabyte around 1,5 years ago, but little has changed since then. Why is there no consistent approach to your company’s name and the Gsmart brand spelling-wise?
C.F. We did have some problems on this front a couple of years ago indeed, though they had more to do with getting the regulations straight throughout the company. Today we are on our way to solve this issue. I can say it for sure that we have made our minds on the way the name of our brand and communicator range (Gsmart) are to be spelled, and what you see today will be applied in the future as well.
A.L. Some models in your brand-new line-up also have befuddling names. Why did you go for such a complicated index with two letters and three digits? Specifically, the Gigabyte MW998 has one of the hardest names to memorize around.
C.F. The “MW” and “MS” indexes were picked in order to divide our offerings up into two groups – 2G solutions (MW) and 2G-plus-3G communicators (MS). As for the MW998, I agree that it is a little on the complicated side, but in future our indexing system will probably become more straightforward. But for now, don’t forget that we are doing everything we can to allow consumers, who see ads picturing new models, memorize even such sophisticated indexes. That’s why we are trying to associate our new offerings with their key features, like the MW998 focuses on the video department.
A.L. Do you have any intentions of switching to a new platform (Qualcomm or Marvell PXA3xx) in the second half of 2008?
C.F. We already have a couple of communicators running on new platforms – we will stick to both Marvell PXA3xx and probably some other platforms. We have some agreements with Qualcomm, but I am not authorized to disclose them right now.
A.L. Are you going to create a user interface of your own, similar to what HTC’s range of touchphones currently offers? If yes, then what stage the development process is at, and how different it is from the HTC’s solution?
C.F. (pulls a communicator with a custom UI out of her pocket) Yes, we are currently working on it. We already have a prototype edition, although it is a very early version of this interface. We are not aiming to follow in HTC’s footsteps; in fact, our UI design is totally different. You know, at the end of the day we all have one goal – make the user interface of communicators more intuitive and allow for finger-based navigation on top of that. While our solution is different from what’s already available in the market, we hope it will be at least not less convenient and straightforward than our competition.
A.L. Do you have any plans for Windows Mobile powered smartphones?
C.F. No, no plans at all. We want to focus all our efforts on one single branch – communicators, going for smartphones would bring about the necessity to split our resources, which is not our way of doing things.
A.L. What companies does Gigabyte see as its main rivals (in Russia and the global market)?
C.F. We have a slightly different approach to this problem. We believe the market for Windows Mobile solutions is already mature and has enough manufacturers in it so as to allow us to pick our own niche and quietly develop within its bounds, without struggling against other players in a direct fashion. We have a very unique path on the market, and we are quite happy with it for now.
A.L. I would like to ask you how Gigabyte views digital television in Russia. The fact is, this kind of service is nearly non-existent on the Russian market, and it would be pointless to hope that things might brighten up on this front any time soon. Why are you so heavy on digital television as far as advertising goes?
C.F. We firmly believe new business opportunities will start to emerge on the Russian market this year. So twelve months from now we will see a totally different picture. As regards the way we advertise our solutions, TV is in fact only one constituent of the feature pack we deliver with our offerings; the GSmart and its focus on digital TV is not what our portfolio is all about. And as far as digital television goes, let me explain our business model and why we are so sticking to the whole TV thing. As we see it, business model and what content end-users get on their DVB-enabled devices can have a significant impact on how they perceive it. The point is, consumers should get more content with their mobile devices and thus be encouraged to subscribe to paid TV services provided by operators. While there is a potential market for solutions with digital television capabilities, service provides usually quit after some time. Why? I think if you remember, HTC also supported one TV phone before, for Virgin Mobile in the UK, so why did they quit? Take Italy for example, where digital TV has been around for quite a while, but never became vastly popular – the reason behind this is that service providers need to be sure that the content they deliver is different from what end-users can access from their living rooms, and if it is no different, who is going to pay for it. The other thing is subscription fee. And we believe if these two factors can be well-orchestrated, then consumers will definitely come to appreciate mobile television, especially given how good it is quality-wise nowadays.
A.L. Does Gigabyte have plans to focus on some multimedia features, like music or video, with its impending solutions?
C.F. Yes, we are going to release multimedia-heavy models. When you look at the world of multimedia, you can’t neglect the audio of course. We think we have enough technologies and expertise to backup any department we throw into our devices, but the main point here is UI design. Feature-wise it is not a problem to add support for music and digital audio, but the idea is this – why people like Sony Ericsson music phones so much? Because they like the way their phones are designed. So I think it will be our next challenge. If we want our users to really enjoy the features we deliver with our devices, we have to work on our UI, design and usability, as well music-related features (like storage space).
A.L. Speaking of Windows Mobile devices, cameras are not among their fortes. Can Gigabyte step forward and come up with even one top-notch cameraphone that would be on par with imaging-centric mobile phones?
C.F. For this to happen we need to position our device really well. Actually Gigabyte is the first company to launch a 7 Mpix phone in Taiwan, so we are surely concerned about the issues you have just mentioned. Users indeed demand high-quality of imaging department on their phones, but we need to strike the right balance between spec sheets (2, 3, 5 megapixels) and real quality of camera modules and components we use. As I said, cameraphones require very precise positioning, but we focus more on delivering and enhancing all-in-one devices, the full package of features; nevertheless I do believe we need to enhance this department in our offerings, so we will need to properly prioritize all features that we want to improve, so as not to get carried away by one particular department, like TV or camera.
A.L. What do you think about the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1?
C.F. It didn’t come as a surprise to us; personally, I knew it was bound to happen some day. To be honest the market for mobile solutions is quite big these days, but the portion for PDA phones, those running on Windows Mobile, is still relatively small. That’s why we don’t mind more competitors coming in, but it is not the “you succeed and I fail” type of game. We need to focus on how we can take a bite from the traditional feature-phone market, that’s our challenge, how to stress our uniqueness to differentiate ourselves from other manufacturers, and there is no point in competing with Sony Ericsson today, we need to strive to book a place for ourselves on the market.
A.L. Are you going to open a local office in Russia, or you will continue to deal with Vobis as your senior partner in this region?
C.F. Yes we are going to open an office in Russia, but for the time being we need to stick to local operators and benefit from our cooperation with them. Since we are getting bigger we will have to do this eventually – we want to have our own branches in other regions too.
A.L. Last year you rolled out, let’s be honest, only two devices that did enjoy some sales. If it’s possible, I would like to know how many offerings are on your roadmap for 2008.
C.F. The first quarter of 2008 brought 3 devices – you saw them some time ago. For Q2 we have 2 more phones in stock, and in Q3 we will launch a new product line, not with PDA phones, but data cards, although we don’t expect it to become sought-after in Russia, and by the end of Q4 the market will see 2 or 3 more devices. So our plan for this year is to roll out at least 2-3 models every quarter. Last year we didn’t launch a great many models due to our internal reorganization but now that more R&D resources are available, I think we can keep up with the roadmap that I have just mentioned.
A.L. Thank for you time.
C.F. Thank you.
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