Taiwan-born developer launches message app with real-time typing

2014/11/23, by S.C. Chang and Jeffrey Wu, FOCUS TAIWAN

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) A Taiwan-born Canadian developer has launched a new messaging app that lets users see what people on the other side of conversations are writing as they type, and he has plans to launch it in Taiwan in the coming months.

Unlike traditional texting apps, the beta version of Beam Messenger released last week for Android phones is “a first of its kind True Real Time communications app,” Toronto-based Beam Propulsion Lab wrote on its website.

The free app, which is not available in Taiwan’s Google Play Store, promises “the closest you will get to having a verbal conversation in a messaging app” as participants in a conversation can see text entry and erasing in real time.

One example the developer gave is cutting off a friend repeating an old tale as he or she is still typing it.

Paul Wang, the 24-year-old head of Beam Propulsion Lab, told CNA that his company plans to launch the English version of the app in Taiwan within the next few months, with a Chinese version coming soon to target the huge Chinese market.

Currently, Beam Messenger is available in select markets and allows only one-on-one conversations in English and basic transmission of images, with other features like multiuser conference and support for other languages being under development.

The app is free to download for Android users while iPhone and Windows version are coming soon.

HTC One M8 named best Android phone by U.S. tech news site

2014/11/18, by Jeffrey Wu, FOCUS TAIWAN

Taipei, Nov. 18 (CNA) HTC Corp.’s One M8 has been named the best Android smartphone on the market by Business Insider, a U.S.-based business and technology news website, due to the phone’s unrivaled build quality.

Of all the offerings available today from manufacturers including HTC, Samsung and Motorola, the HTC One M8 is “a gorgeous phone with a nice screen, easy-to-use software, a great camera and long battery life,” Business Insider said in a report published Nov. 14.

The 5-inch device, unveiled by the Taiwanese handset maker in March this year, is “definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for a new Android phone,” the report said.

The U.S. website added that when HTC unveiled its first One series phone in 2013, dubbed the One M7, it was the first Android phone to actually rival the iPhone in terms of build quality.

The Taoyuan-based company has maintained that same build quality with its One M8, not only because the phone is made of a sleek aluminum, but also because it “offers some of the best audio and visual experiences” that people can find on a mobile device, according to Business Insider.

Runners-up selected by the website include Motorola’s second-generation Moto X with its soft-touch back and metal edges, and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4, which has the best screen on the market.

In July this year, an online survey conducted by U.K.-based Mobile Choice magazine found that 25.8 percent of the respondents said they would like their next handset to come from Taiwan’s HTC, while 21.3 percent chose South Korea’s Samsung and 17.9 percent said they would prefer an Apple device.

The previous HTC One M7 won the magazine’s Phone of the Year, Best Video Phone and Best Design awards in 2013, while Samsung was chosen as best manufacturer last year.

Asustek remains world’s No. 3 tablet maker in Q3: research firm

2014/11/17, by Jeffrey Wu, FOCUS TAIWAN

Taipei, Nov. 17 (CNA) Taiwan’s Asustek Computer Inc. remained the world’s third-largest tablet maker in the third quarter of this year, chased closely by China’s Lenovo Group Ltd., according to data from research firm Strategy Analytics.

Global tablet shipments reached 55.2 million units in the three-month period ending in September, up 5 percent from the previous quarter and up 6 percent from a year earlier, Strategy Analytics said in a Nov. 13 research report.

Although they are still some distance behind market leaders Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., both Lenovo and Asustek are demonstrating that innovations are providing “sufficient product differentiation to drive shipments,” the research firm said.

Asustek shipped 3.1 million tablets in the third quarter for a 5.6 percent market share, followed by Lenovo in fourth place with 3 million units and a 5.4 percent market share.

Top player Apple grabbed a 22.3 percent market share but its shipments of 12.3 million units declined 13 percent annually and 7 percent sequentially, with few consumers in the developed countries feeling the need to upgrade to the latest products that offer only minor changes, Strategy Analytics said.

Second-place Samsung shipped 9.7 million tablets for a 17.6 percent share, while Taiwan-based Acer Inc. stayed in fifth with 1.3 million units and a 2.3 percent share of the global market.

In terms of operating systems, Google Inc.’s Android further consolidated its global market share, reaching an all-time high of 72.0 percent share of the tablet market, according to Strategy Analytics.

Apple’s iOS ranked second with a 22.3 percent market share, and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows also reached its highest level of market share at 5.7 percent as more Windows models became available, including the Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

Spotify preparing for free mobile service in Taiwan

2014/11/16, by Jeffrey Wu, FOCUS TAIWAN

Taipei, Nov. 16 (CNA) Online music streaming service Spotify is planning to expand the free tier of its service to mobile device owners in Taiwan in an attempt to broaden its potential base of listeners.

Sunita Kaur, Spotify’s managing director for Asia, revealed in an interview with CNA that the Swedish start-up company will soon give Taiwanese users access to millions of songs across their smartphones or tablets for free.

The new offering will enable local customers to listen to all the Spotify playlists they have created on their PCs and also discover the perfect music for a specific moment in time, such as going for a jog or working in an office, Kaur said.

She declined to elaborate on a timetable for the launch because the company is still negotiating music licensing deals with labels and artists in Taiwan, a market in which Spotify only set up operations in September 2013.

“We’ve been here a year, and the reception has been amazing. We’re looking forward to building an even better Spotify experience for Taiwan’s music lovers,” Kaur said.

Taiwanese users will also be able to enjoy Spotify Connect — a home audio service that lets users play millions of tracks through their speakers or smart TVs by using the Spotify mobile app as a remote — as soon as Spotify’s manufacturing partners decide to launch their certified products in Taiwan, she said.

At present, users in Taiwan can only listen to Spotify’s desktop or laptop program for free with ads, and only premium members who pay NT$149 (US$4.84) a month have access to the service through other devices.

According to Spotify statistics, 72 percent of Taiwanese users connected to Spotify’s services over the past year through desktop PCs or laptops, reflecting the company’s low penetration rate of mobile users in Taiwan so far.

Taiwan is one of the few markets in which Spotify has not launched its free mobile service. Founded in 2008, the music streaming portal is available in 59 markets globally, with more than 50 million active users and over 12.5 million paying subscribers.

Spotify is now the second biggest source of digital music revenue for labels in Europe, and the biggest music streaming service of its kind globally.

Turkish cell phone maker said to team up with Hon Hai

2014/11/15, by Chao Wei-lan and Frances Huang, FOCUS TAIWAN

Taipei, Nov. 15 (CNA) Telpa, a Turkish mobile phone supplier, is planning to work with Taiwan-based high-tech giant Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. to roll out mobile phones and tablet computers in Turkey, according to Reuters.

Cited in the report, Telpa Chief Executive Sebahattin Yaman said that while Hon Hai, also known as Foxconn, plans to invest in Turkey to produce cell phones and tablets, the Taiwanese firm is also considering moving production of other gadgets to the country.

Hon Hai is the world’s largest contract electronics maker, which assembles iPhones and iPads for Apple Inc. The Taiwanese firm is currently running a broad production base in China.

In the report, Telpa’s General Manager Muzaffer Golcu said that Hon Hai is in talks with the Turkish government to seek investment incentives for manufacturing smartphones in Turkey before making a decision on its investment plan.

According to Reuters, Telpa, headquartered in Istanbul, is the largest cell phone brand in Turkey and has grasped a 20 percent share of the Turkish mobile market through its brand General Mobile.

Yaman said that Telpa had distributed other mobile phone brands in the Turkish market before it started focusing exclusively on its own brand General Mobile in June 2013.

Currently, Telpa sells 150,000-170,000 General Mobile phones a month in Turkey.

Also in the report, Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said that his government plans to cut Turkey’s electronics goods imports and come up with measures to boost local production.

The report cited research as saying that sales in the consumer electronics market in Turkey, which has a large population of young people, rose 18.8 percent in the first two quarters of this year, from a year earlier.

Industrial promotion office, Panasonic team up on green tech

2014/11/13, by Jeffrey Wu, FOCUS TAIWAN

Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) The government-backed Taiwan-Japan Industrial Promotion Office (TJPO) and the local unit of Panasonic Corp. signed a letter of intent Thursday for joint development of green technology and low-carbon smart cities.

The partnership is expected to kick off a wide range of cooperation from joint research and development to technological exchanges and joint ventures that will strengthen the global competitiveness of Taiwanese and Japanese industries.

One potential item of cooperation is Panasonic’s initiative to create energy-saving supermarkets which adopt display freezer with eco-friendly refrigerants in a bid to reduce carbon emissions, said Jenson Chang, division director of public relations at Panasonic Taiwan.

He listed another possibility as Panasonic’s sustainable smart town project, billed as a revolutionary community planning scheme that integrates solar power, security, mobility and healthcare.

The company has started creating such a smart town in Fujisawa in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture, where residents can now generate the energy that they use in their own homes through optimal utilization of solar power and other tools, according to Chang.

In June this year, Panasonic Taiwan teamed up with Tainan City to design a sustainable smart town in southern Taiwan that is expected to have construction wrap up by 2025, he said. The company hopes to expand this project to more areas in Taiwan through the letter of intent signed Thursday.

Panasonic Taiwan has operated in the country since 1962. The Japanese company is best known for home appliance manufacturing, which accounts for 20 percent of its total sales, but its business has also expanded into housing, automobiles, business-to-business solutions and electronics components.

The TJPO was established by Taiwan’s government in March 2012 as a liaison window between the two countries. The mission of TJPO is to jointly promote bilateral collaboration alongside other industrial promotion offices under Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs.

As of October this year, the office has helped bring about 154 bilateral cooperation deals valued at NT$22.6 billion (US$739 million).

Asustek to add second chip partner to ZenFone 2 series

2014/11/12, by Jeffrey Wu, FOCUS TAIWAN

Taipei, Nov. 12 (CNA) Taiwan’s Asustek Computer Inc. said Wednesday that it plans to add a second chip supplier for the successor of its low-cost ZenFone range as part of efforts to double its smartphone shipments next year.

Asustek CEO Jerry Shen told the press at an investor conference that the company intends to launch its ZenFone 2 models at the Consumer Electronics Show in the United States in January next year, with a starting price tag of NT$9,990 (US$327).

All of the new phones scheduled for release at the annual trade show will be powered by Intel Corp. chips and will support 4G LTE connectivity, Shen said, adding that LTE-enabled phones will account for about 30 percent-40 percent of Asustek’s total smartphone shipments in 2015.

The company estimates that it will ship 8 million smartphones this year and 16 million units next year, as it plans to expand the availability of ZenFones to about 20 markets globally from 14 markets this year, while putting more focus on China and Japan, he added.

To achieve that aggressive shipment target, Shen said, Asustek will team up with a second chip supplier to produce cheaper ZenFone 2 models priced at NT$4,990.

The second-platform ZenFone 2 will include variants that will be launched in January with two major Chinese wireless carriers — China Mobile Ltd. and China Telecom Corp. — with some other models designed for the global market, according to Shen, who declined to name the second chip supplier.

The CEO forecast that Asustek’s smartphone business will turn profitable for the whole of next year and make up about 15 percent of the company’s 2015 full-year revenue.

Asustek reported that day third-quarter net income of NT$5.81 billion (US$190 million), the highest level of the past six quarters, due in part to better-than-expected shipments of smartphones.

The company shipped 2.8 million smartphones during the third quarter, beating its previous target of 2.6 million units.

Shares of Asustek closed down 0.16 percent at NT$319.50 Wednesday in Taipei before the company’s earnings announcement.

Intel expects wireless-charging phones in early 2015

2014/11/12, by Jeffrey Wu, FOCUS TAIWAN

Taipei, Nov. 12 (CNA) Smartphones using Intel Corp.’s wireless charging solutions are expected to be made available in early 2015, with the technology forecast to reach tablets and laptops later next year.

Kumar Chinnaswamy, general manager of wireless charging at Intel Experiences Group, said that the certifications for several smartphones using Intel’s wireless charging solutions are “ready to go” and that these handsets could be launched in the first half of 2015.

For devices requiring higher power levels, such as tablets and notebooks, Intel expects these Intel solution-based products to be released in the second half of next year, Chinnaswamy told a press briefing at an Intel wireless charging forum in Taipei.

In the area of laptops, Chinnaswamy added, Intel’s wireless charging solutions will begin with mid-range and high-end notebooks. Such a “no wires” future could also reach the lower-end market in 2016 or 2017 for notebooks based on Intel’s Core M low-power chips, he said.

Wireless charging is part of Intel’s larger plan to free PCs of wire clutter, aiming to eliminate cables for keyboards, mice, monitors and external hard drives.

The U.S. chipmaker is backing wireless technology from a standards organization called Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), whose magnetic resonance technology turns surfaces like tables into wireless charging stations.

A4WP’s membership has more than doubled from last year to 135 currently, including some mobile industry leaders such as Qualcomm Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., as well as Taiwanese PC brands Asustek Computer Inc. and Acer Inc. Taiwan-based contract electronics maker Hon Hai Precision Industry Co is also involved in the new technology.

Acer’s convertible laptop gets 2015 CES Innovation Award

2014/11/12, by Jeffrey Wu, FOCUS TAIWAN

Taipei, Nov. 12 (CNA) Taiwan’s Acer Inc. announced on Wednesday that it has received a 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Innovation Award for its Aspire R 13 convertible notebook in the computer hardware and component category.

Products chosen as CES Innovation honorees reflect innovative design and engineering in some of the most cutting edge tech products and services coming to market, Acer said in a news release.

The Aspire R 13′s display is affixed at the sides to Acer’s unique Ezel Aero Hinge that allows the screen to rotate 180 degrees, so the notebook can be used easily for reading, typing, web browsing or playing games, according to the company.

“Acer is thrilled to be honored with this prestigious award,” said Maarten Schellekens, vice president of Acer Global Marketing and Branding.

“The Aspire R 13 combines intelligent construction and smart features that enhance work and play. It’s the perfect notebook for those who don’t want to give up a traditional notebook design but want more options and flexibility,” Schellekens said.

The CES Innovation Awards are an annual competition honoring outstanding design and engineering in consumer technology products.

Products entered in the competition are judged by a panel of independent industrial designers, engineers and members of the trade media to honor outstanding design and engineering in consumer electronics products across 29 product categories.

BlackBerry CEO meets Cher Wang, others on possible tie-up: report

2014/11/11, by Chao Wei-lan and Frances Huang, FOCUS TAIWAN

Taipei, Nov. 11 (CNA) John Chen, chief executive officer of Canada-based smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd., has met with HTC Corp. Chairwoman Cher Wang to discuss a possible partnership to expand in China, according to Bloomberg.

Chen also met with China-based Xiaomi Group CEO Lei Jun and Lenovo Group Ltd. Chairman and CEO Yang Yuanqing during a trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Forum in Beijing, Bloomberg said in a report published on Monday.

Xiaomi has replaced South Korea’s Samsung as the largest smartphone vendor in China.

In an interview, Chen said Blackberry was looking for a partner because having one was “a more efficient way” to make inroads into China’s market.

BlackBerry is also looking for avenues of growth after suffering declining smartphone shipments and incurring losses over the past three years.

“I’m here this time to look at what opportunities there may be. We have not really focused on this market. It’s a huge market but it’s a very highly competitive market too,” Chen said in the interview.

In the Bloomberg report, Chen said that BlackBerry has strong capabilities in security, encryption and privacy, which are in demand in China, and he foresaw the company striking deals there on technology licensing, distribution or manufacturing.

Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC is vying for a larger share of the fast growing China market by targeting the low to mid-range smartphone segment there at a time when its high-end devices face stiff competition from international brands, such as Apple and Samsung.

To cater to Chinese consumers who favor larger screens, HTC introduced earlier this month a new large screen version of the Desire 820 phablet that employs a 64-bit octa-core processor from Taiwan-based MediaTek Inc., which is one of the leading suppliers of chips for Chinese smartphones.

The new version features a 5.5-inch 720p display, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a 13-megapixel rear camera and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera along with 4G LTE connectivity, and it is equipped with HTC’s iconic BoomSound dual front-facing speakers.

The previous version of the Desire 820 went on sale in China in September, and, according to HTC, was warmly received by Chinese consumers.