Taiwan’s BenQ wants to strengthen its R&D activities in Asia as part of its push to become a top-tier vendor in a broader number of technologies, the company’s chairman said Monday.
In today’s competitive consumer electronics market, it’s difficult to make money unless you’re a leading vendor, said KY Lee in an interview. Strong product development is a good way to achieve this, he said.
“We need to develop some unique technologies,” said Lee. Some of these technologies can come from affiliated companies like AU Optronics, of which Lee also serves as chairman, and some will have to be developed in-house, he said.
“Every year we try to increase the R&D head count by a minimum of 15 percent in Asia, and this year we expect to increase more,” Lee said.
BenQ spends about 4 percent of revenue annually on R&D and staff around 4,000 engineers worldwide. Of these, about 2,700 are working at its R&D centers in Taiwan and China. The remainder work at sites in Europe, primarily in Germany.
Lee said the company is focusing on Asia because engineers are educated to a high level, can be paid lower wages and are amenable to working late or harder when the business needs to finish an urgent project.
“In Europe you cannot do that; the labor unions will interfere. They will force the companies not to [make their employees] work so much, but the Asian people are more flexible,” he said.
BenQ is already having some success. In the Asia Pacific region, the company counts itself as number three in liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors and projectors, but lags in other markets like cell phones. Last year, it acquired the cell phone handset business of Siemens and now runs the company out of Germany as BenQ Mobile GmbH & Co.
At this week’s Computex trade show in Taipei, BenQ is unveiling a number of new products include laptops with built-in digital TV tuners, compact projectors, LCD monitors and cell phones. It is also showing a prototype Blu-ray Disc writer drive.
The company isn’t doing well in all markets.
“In the U.S., we don’t have good growth for many reasons,” he said. He attributed a high market entry barrier as being the biggest reason why BenQ is far from a well-known brand name in the United States and said that until its technology can better compete with other companies in the market, it will sit on the sidelines and “play safe.”
“The U.S. still leads IT, but we find in consumer electronics technology that Asian companies are playing a more and more important role in defining standards,” he said. “In the future, with a huge population base, we believe Asia will have the power to define a new and emerging standard for consumer electronics.”
-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service
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