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Science & Technology ... ...
    Inspired VISION
2005-12-19 07:37

Cher Wang is never slow to link her business success to the wisdom of God.

"For me, the Bible is the best book about management practice," says Wang, a devout Christian who chairs a number of high-tech companies in Taiwan including chip design house VIA Technologies and smart mobile device maker High Tech Computer Corp (HTC).

One thing she learned from the Bible is that a person must have a vision and should never give in, otherwise he or she will be destroyed.

And for the high-tech world where businesses rise or die overnight, vision is crucial.

"With a vision we will not get lost. Any high-tech company must be visionary. Without it, most would not succeed," says Wang.

HTC, launched in 1997 aimed at developing hand held minicomputers that could also make mobile phone calls, had been suffering huge losses for years.

But the right vision and persistence has helped HTC, now the world's largest maker of PDA (personal digital assistants) phones and smartphones, make a turnaround.

Wang seems to be a computer idiot. She just uses her PC to surf the news and check e-mails.

Yet she has long held the vision that a personal computer should be as small as a watch or even a ring.

"We started HTC with the vision of offering end-users an easy to use product. We have never believed consumers want to have to carry separate laptops, mobile phones and digital cameras," Wang says.

In 2000, HTC won a deal to make the popular iPAQ PDA for Compaq, which was later acquired by Hewlett-Packard and won the favour of Microsoft.

Now Europe's top six cellular operators and the top five operators in the US are all HTC customers.

DoPoDo, a subsidiary of VIA, is also making headway in the Chinese mainland's booming mobile phone market. DoPoDo's handsets have become a favourite with mainland corporate users, and it is extending its range to cater to average consumers with cheaper smartphones.

Having the right vision really pays off.

"When Microsoft launched Windows CE, few people believed it could work," recalls Wang.

Windows CE is an operating system for mobile phones, competing with the dominant platform Symbian supported by mobile phone giants such as Nokia.

The industry-wide distrust of Windows CE gave HTC a huge opportunity, says Wang: the US software titan needed a partner to crack the mobile phone market.

HTC had been struggling, Wang believes, because the market was not ready for PDAs. Now they are taking off.

The firm last year saw sales surge 67 per cent to US$1.6 billion, while its profits grew a whopping 108 per cent to US$123 million. It is now the hottest stock in Taiwan.

And smart devices are set to bring even more success to the "visionary" HTC. Wang believes such gizmos will eventually replace most notebook PCs.

"It will be cool if I can wear a PC on my wrist or have it built into my ring. My sunglasses could be a digital camera enabling me to take snapshots and even play music whenever I like," says Wang.

"A computer display comes up in the air and enables me to send e-mails and transfer files to my office. We will eventually develop such devices - there are no limits on the development of technology."

But, Wang stresses, in the hi-tech market "you must have a product with absolutely leading technologies."

The unique advantage for Wang is that "VIA develops all the (hardware-related) technologies for personal computers, including CPUs, chipsets and even graphic chips."

And "all the technologies are world leading," claims Wang.

When Microsoft launched its latest embedded operating system for mobile phones, Windows Mobile 5.0 in May, in company Chairman Bill Gates' hand was HTC's Universal, the world's first 3G (third generation) Windows Mobile 5.0-based device.

The device claimed the cover of technology magazines across the United States and Europe.

Wang is also quick to remind anyone who will listen that Bill Gates said the HTC Universal was the best mobile device he had seen, and he even heralded HTC as the world's best hardware maker.

Back from the ashes

Another of Wang's companies, VIA Technologies, which she founded in 1988, has been having a tough time.

But, persistence and vision are helping VIA pull through, says Wang.

Initially, VIA focused on chipsets, which connect a computer's microprocessor with the rest of its functions, and for a time the firm claimed a 70 per cent share of the global market.

But punishment for market domination came from US technology giant Intel. In 2001 the company took VIA to the US courts, accusing it of infringing its patents.

Wang says the lawsuit was designed to suffocate VIA.

Some years ago when Wang met Intel's former Chairman Andrew Grove and told him VIA was ready to move into the chipset business, Grove's response was sharp.

Grove warned Wang that any company challenging Intel in the chipset market would be beaten down.

The lawsuit struck VIA a critical blow. By 2003 its market share had dropped to less than 30 per cent.

"I was present at more than 100 hearings globally," Wang recalls.

The lawsuit hit not only VIA's market share, profits and stock prices, but also company morale.

"It was a very difficult time for us. But we stuck to our vision and pulled through," Wang says.

Wang is the daughter of Yung-ching Wang, founder of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group and the richest man on the island.

Even at the toughest time, Cher Wang never turned to her mega-tycoon father for financial assistance.

"In my career, I have never got a cent from my father," she says.

She turned to God.

Wang gets up at 5:30 each morning and spends several hours praying.

"The vision enables me to carry on. When I pray, I express my gratitude for all my experiences, including difficulties, guided by God," she says.

Her religion gives her a sense of calm and the will to continue, even during the toughest times, Wang says.

Under her influence, Wang's husband, Wen-chi Chen, CEO of VIA Technologies, became a born-again Christian in 1997.

In April 2003, Intel and VIA settled their lawsuit and agreed to exchange patents within ten years.

"I always believed we would eventually win the lawsuit as we developed our technologies on our own. Without technological innovations, Intel would not agree to settle the lawsuit," she says.

Now VIA's market share is rebounding.

Its CPUs are making a dent in the thin client and embedded device market.

According to Wang, VIA's share in the global thin client market exceeds 67 per cent, while its share of the global chipset market has hit 47 per cent.

The thin client is a low-cost, centrally-managed computer devoid of CD-ROM players, disk drives, and expansion slots.

And Wang sees a big opportunity in the Chinese mainland where the PC market is growing rapidly despite a global slowdown.

Increasing popularity of smart devices is also giving a boost to HTC and VIA.

For political reasons, Wang is reluctant to talk about VIA and HTC's business expansion in the mainland, but she says she hopes VIA's CPUs, which have been billed as "China's chips," will regain the favour of customers in the mainland as VIA's business gets back on track.

"Our vision is to build the world's most efficient, most influential and highest-tech company," Wang says.

She has the vision, the key, as always, will be persistence.

(China Daily 12/19/2005 page5)


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