The chairman of Asustek Computer, Jonney Shih, noticed the growing thirst for mobile computing early on. When he challenged his engineering teams to design a new, more mobile computer, they came up with the netbook, a mini-laptop with extended battery life designed to keep people connected to the Internet while on the go. Netbooks became a global phenomenon.
Now, the company's innovative product, the Eee PC line of netbooks, faces a threat from tablets such as Apple's iPad. Shih sat down with IDG News Service (IDGNS) to talk about how his company will face the next generation of Apple's popular tablet, iPad 2, with a "secret weapon" to be unveiled when the time is right.
He also discussed the second wave of the computing revolution, predicting ever more mobility. He said only three mobile OSes will survive the current battle for users, and that companies, including Asustek, will have to find new ways to provide online services to customers.
IDGNS: Asustek launched four new tablets at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year, yet everyone expects Apple to launch the iPad 2 at any time. What does the new iPad mean for all the tablets coming out now? Won't it make them obsolete?
Shih: Well, we already know some of the details of that device, such as what kind of processor they chose... We very carefully chose our tablet processor, the Nvidia Tegra 2, and to really compete it will take [Apple] some time. You know, [Nvidia] is well known for graphics.
Also, we will try to provide a "secret weapon," something we have not shown at this time but closer to the launch time we will show.
IDGNS: Is the secret weapon a component or a new tablet?
Shih: I think it's best not to say now. You will have to wait until the launch.
IDGNS: Well -- on to trends. What will be big in 2011?
Shih: Toward 2011, I definitely think it is going to be a booming time for personal cloud computing. The past 30 years was the personal computing era. The next stage is in personal cloud computing and I think the beauty is it's not only one OS. It will be a few OSes but each will have to be big enough.
They will have to think about the best user experience and what is the best balance between personal computing and cloud computing. It's not that easy because some people say everything should be on the Web, like Chrome, and some features on Chrome are good. I think Microsoft should learn from that and put a lot of legacy on the Web and make it light but I think for many other things you really need to do it on the personal computing side.
You need to do a lot of work on the UI [user interface] and 2D and 3D graphics, and true typing and multitasking is important because sometimes you are doing a lot of things through the cloud. When you talk about multitasking in the cloud, you also have to think about battery power and that's where I think you have to decide what should be in personal computing and what should be in cloud computing. If Chrome tries not to rush too much to put everything on the Web, then it will be okay. Look at Apple, they put some things on the Web such as iTunes, and other things on the computer, and they are making a good mix. You have to think about the best balance between personal computing and cloud computing.
IDGNS: Interesting your note on Apple. With all the new mobile operating systems coming out, which do you think will win big in cloud computing?
Shih: In this new era of personal cloud computing, you need to have the platform and it has to be big enough. It is already clear that the iPad-iPhone (iOS) will be one camp and Android will be another camp and Windows will be another camp. It's not that easy to have other camps. From my observation, I think it is possible, but it will be quite difficult. This is a racing game.
So for the personal cloud computing era there is a different competition, a new game, different from the Wintel [Windows+Intel] era. It should be more open but more competitive and more fair. We like this kind of challenge.
IDGNS: What is Asustek doing in cloud computing?
We already provide Asus Web storage but I think we need to provide other products. One trend we're watching is digital home theaters. I think each home will need a home theater and if we can do it in a very good way for e-learning, e-infrastructure and try to make it very easy, then I think we will succeed.
IDGNS: What trends will fail this year?
Shih: People actually talk a lot about 3D with the glasses, for the TV, and I don't think that will prevail. ... Maybe it is possible in smaller devices and without wearing glasses.