Tai­wan’s PC mak­ers shift gears for an all-play-and-no-work world

In Win De­vel­op­ment’s com­puter cases go from generic to cool “You want to have it just right, and you’re will­ing to pay for it”

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS - Bruce Ein­horn

For decades, Tai­wan has been the go-to place for HP, Dell, and oth­ers that need ef­fi­cient pro­duc­tion of com­put­ers and their com­po­nents. But with PC sales fall­ing world­wide, many Tai­wanese com­pa­nies are try­ing to stem their losses by ap­peal­ing to one group of cus­tomers who still rely on desk­tops: PC gamers who want spe­cial­ized, high­pow­ered rigs. Some com­pa­nies are selling mod­els with fea­tures de­signed for game­play; oth­ers are fo­cus­ing on play­ers who cus­tom-build their PCs. Gamers care less about price than or­di­nary PC buy­ers do. “You want to have the fea­tures, you want to have it now, you want to have it just right, and you’re will­ing to pay for it,” says Bloomberg In­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst Anand Srini­vasan. Com­put­ers for gamers ac­count for 5 per­cent to 8 per­cent of to­tal PC ship­ments, Srini­vasan says, but av­er­age selling prices can be two to three times higher than

those for or­di­nary ma­chines. PC ship­ments world­wide fell 10.6 per­cent in 2015, ac­cord­ing to mar­ket-re­search firm IDC, in part be­cause of the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of smart­phones.

In Win De­vel­op­ment, a Tai­wanese pro­ducer of com­puter cases, is go­ing after do-it-your­selfers. At its peak in 2008, In Win had NT$4 bil­lion ($124 mil­lion) in rev­enue. Sales have dropped 47 per­cent since, to NT$2.1 bil­lion in 2015. Tai­wan’s over­all elec­tron­ics ex­ports were $95.5 mil­lion in 2015, a 4.5 per­cent drop from 2014. Chair­man Vin­cent Lai started pre­par­ing to tar­get gamers in 2012, telling his de­sign­ers to come up with some­thing that didn’t look like a PC.

The In Win H-Frame 2.0 chas­sis, which ac­com­mo­dates a range of com­po­nents, has tem­pered glass and nine stacked alu­minum sheets, il­lu­mi­nated by LED lights, al­low­ing air to pass through the case. The H-Tower case, which opens and closes via a but­ton or an app, sells for $2,400. “Play­ers want their hard­ware to be cool,” says Lai, who hopes the new gear will help the com­pany re­verse its slide. In Win is one of sev­eral Tai­wanese elec­tron­ics mak­ers that spon­sor com­pe­ti­tions for “case mod­ders,” PC fans who mod­ify their com­put­ers.

Other Tai­wan man­u­fac­tur­ers are selling PCs for gamers who don’t want to build their own. Gi­ga­byte

Tech­nol­ogy, a lead­ing maker of com­po­nents, in­clud­ing moth­er­boards and key­boards, launched its Aorus line of high-pow­ered PCs in 2014. The Aorus X7 Pro lap­top, with two graph­ics cards that help make the vir­tual-real­ity ex­pe­ri­ence faster, sells for about $2,500.

Acer boasts that its $1,700 Preda­tor G6 gam­ing desk­top has an “ar­mor-like shell crafted to look the part of an un­stop­pable fight­ing ma­chine.” Asustek

Com­puter in­tro­duced its Repub­lic of Gamers line of desk­tops, lap­tops, and pe­riph­er­als 10 years ago. It rolled out a gam­ing mon­i­tor in May that it claims is 20 per­cent faster than other mod­els.

“A lot of hard-core gamers are opin­ion lead­ers in terms of tech­nol­ogy,” says Jackie Hsu, vice pres­i­dent in charge of Asustek’s ROG line. “If they have en­joyed your ma­chine, when their friends are con­sult­ing with them they’ll rec­om­mend your prod­uct.” So far, though, the in­dus­try con­tin­ues to shrink. IDC ex­pects the PC mar­ket to con­tract an ad­di­tional 7.3 per­cent this year. There’s a limit to what cool hard­ware can do, says Bryan Ma, an IDC an­a­lyst in Sin­ga­pore. “Vir­tual real­ity and gam­ing is still a very small part of the mar­ket,” he says.

The bot­tom line Tai­wanese PC com­pa­nies roll out high-priced gear for gamers to turn around fall­ing com­puter sales.

H-Frame 2.0

In Win’s mech­a­nized case opens to re­veal the com­po­nents in­side H-Tower

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