A Vision For The Masses

STAN SHIH, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, ACER
GROUP

In Asia as well as in other parts of the world,
information access will continue to grow at a rapid pace. To make such access more
widespread, Acer’s vision focuses on the next generation of computers, or ‘X’ computers.
Devices which will be use-specific and incredibly user-friendly. Dedicated devices with
limited functionality will address both sides of the accessibility issue: ease-of-use and
affordability. Asia’s global high-tech presence is powerful and will continue to grow. As
the region continues to mature and new technologies are adopted, Asia’s relative
competitiveness will also rise, but technology is not enough. Innovative business concepts
will have an even more powerful impact on the region’s future and its place in the global
markets.

A Long Way To Go
There is no doubt that PCs have already changed the world. Can the world even function
without them now? If we look at the entire world-at everyone, everywhere-we also see that
PCs don’t still form a part of the lives of a majority of the global population. Even in
more developed nations, it is the elite few who have access to or use computers. It is an
issue which needs to be addressed head-on. Everyone, everywhere, should have access to the
benefits of IT. In the next century, such access will be considered a basic human right
which everyone can enjoy, and will not be confined to a privileged few. What is being done
to make this happen? Is technology a solution to the problem?

Information For Everyone
When we look at the future, one thing is clear that people across Asia and around the
world will continue to have greater access to information and IT. When people are
confronted with too much information or irrelevant information, it leads to a condition
called ‘information overload’. IT, in spite of being a part of the cause, will also prove
to be one of the best cures to info-overload. To be truly useful, the interface to
information sources must be very easy to use like a telephone or a TV. The information
itself must also be organized in such a way as to maximize both accessibility and
usability.

Useful information must be available to the
right people at the right time and currently for the most part it is not. This is a
serious hurdle. But as always in business, it is the hurdles which in fact are the source
of opportunities. This is especially true for IT industry players. New efforts to make
technology more accessible will prove quite fruitful in the long run. New ways to offer
information to the broad spectrum of cultures and languages throughout Asia and worldwide
is another a big area of potential growth.

Easy-access Technology Is The Key
The trend is strong and sustainable. Advances in technology allow greater access to
information. But such access also highlights a key challenge we face regarding
technology-it must affordable and be easy to use. In one form or another, a ‘computer’
will be the digital access point between a person and the information he seeks. Computers
will continue to become smaller, cheaper, and more powerful. But computers will some day
be completely taken for granted as they blend into the background of our daily lives.
Computers will, in most cases, no longer be called computers but will take on the name of
the function they perform or the services they provide.

In terms of increasing access to IT,
computers must become easier to use and more affordable. These barriers to access must be
broken to allow more people to benefit more deeply from innovative IT.

Vision For Technology
Acer has identified a new product concept which we believe will prove particularly
valuable in serving the needs of Asian markets. We call it the ‘X’ computer of ‘X’ system
concept. Essentially, the ‘XC’ concept is based on the idea that IT products must become
more easier to use and more affordable than today’s mainstream PCs. Instead of being
general use like PCs, ‘XCs’ are designed to address more specific customer needs and uses,
but are still based on standardized PC components. ‘XCs’ will not be designed to try and
do everything for everybody, that’s what PCs are designed for, and much of the reason why
PCs are still so difficult to use and expensive.

The Asian Powerhouses Get Stronger
In terms of high-tech business and technological expertise, Asia has rapidly become the
center of world attention, certainly in terms of computers, communication, and consumer
electronics. The region’s IT manufacturing and product development resources are second to
none. In regard to the key components for PCs, right on down the list, Asia is the leading
supplier in so many categories. Though it may not yet be a common knowledge, many of the
large western computer companies depend heavily on key components sourced from Asia or
Asian subcontractors. The continent is the foundation upon which the global IT industry
rests and will continue to grow and play a greater role in the future.

The Asian Advantage
Asia-based companies such as Acer and Samsung and all Japanese consumer electronic
powerhouses have a natural competitive advantage to support the region’s IT development.
In particular, their ability to understand the needs of Asian markets, and develop new
products which address such needs, will make it easier to compete in comparison to the
companies coming from other parts of the world.

While understanding that Asian companies
may have an inside track to support the region’s high-tech development, it is also
important to note that the IT industry is in many ways a global industry and companies
can, and do, effectively compete worldwide, regardless of where they happen to be located.
Technologies and components have largely become standardized commodities, so the location
of their source is not critically important. However, for sales and marketing efforts, a
local presence is a critical factor for success.

There Is More To It
Technology can change the world. We’ve all seen it happen and it will continue to do so in
the future. But creative new business concepts can be even more powerful than
technological innovations. Fresh ideas about how to structure, organize, and operate
business organizations can easily have a greater impact on people’s daily lives. It’s
business which serves the needs of people, not technology in and of itself. Business, and
more specifically marketing efforts, reach out to people, getting to know them and
understand what they need, want, and enjoy. Once identified, an organization with the
proper resources and expertise can easily become successful by creating direct value to
the benefit of their customers. In a true sense, business is about helping people. To do
so in a unique way, with creativity and courage, a company can become sustainable and
successful.

Lagging Present Creates Future
Opportunities

In spite of recent economic challenges in many parts of the region, Asia is set to bloom
in the Twenty-first century, and IT access to a much wider segment of the population will
certainly prove critical to how well and fast such development takes place. For reasons
relating to telecom infrastructure, economic development, and lack of a common language,
it would be fair to say that for the most part Asia is currently lagging behind much of
the western world in terms of utilization of technology. This is often seen as a
disadvantage, but there is also a fresh way to look at the situation, seeing the valuable
opportunities which are possible in such circumstances.

Once a technology has become popular and
considered to be a standard upon which a society depends, it creates a limitation because
it makes it very difficult for new technologies to be adopted. In the US, it has been very
difficult to implement new standards for digital TV, largely because of the existing
installed base of the current technology. Countries and regions which do not bear the
burden of a firmly-entrenched installed base have much greater flexibility to establish
new, more advanced standards. The future of the world is a digital future, and Asia is
positioned well to leap ahead of others, embrace the future, and go digital.

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