Taiwan’s Asus is known in the U.S. for its laptops, PCs, and under-the-hood technology. Smartphones? Not so much. But the company’s chairman, Jonney Shih, recently revealed its intent to broaden its smartphone business into the U.S. — a move that could be a huge gamble.
Asus does have several points in its favor should it launch a smartphone in the U.S. It is not a stranger to the mobile tech world: the company has a line of tablets, and most recently was in the limelight for creating the latest Nexus 7 for Google — which indicates its global hardware prowess. Its mobile phones have seen popularity in markets outside the U.S., working with Garmin – the GPS company – to make Garmin-Asus branded smartphones. It also created the PadFone (a phone that charged a tablet) and the FonePad (a tablet capable of making phone calls), products never brought to U.S. markets, but recognized for their innovation.
The company also has a strong brand. U.S. consumers are aware of Asus’ quality in the electronics arena, mostly associated with laptops. While Google’s Nexus 7 tablet will likely continue to launch Asus more into the household name category, the company could use its computer-based appeal to attract customers to a mobile device. Keeping in line with Google, there is speculation that an Asus phone will host the Android operating system – another selling point.
Still, the risks remain. Industry analysts are increasingly discussing the growing “smartphone saturation” concept as users in the U.S. own multiple smartphones for business and personal use. The bring-your-own-device trend in countries with high mobile penetration and high-speed internet has led to multiple devices per user, which in turn has led to the slowdown of smartphone sales as users clamor less for the latest gadgets. Tech bigwigs like Apple and Samsung are seeing the tangible effects of this slowdown in the U.S. Is there room for Asus in such a market?
Shih noted that an Asus smartphone wouldn’t reach U.S. shores until 2014, and who knows what the mobile scene will look like then? The success or failure of an Asus telephony device is impossible to tell now, even as the company could still decide to remain in markets elsewhere. Indeed, given the projection of the growth of technology in emerging markets, it would make sense to maintain a focus there.