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Engineer in Taiwan popularizes card readers

Posted: 21 Oct 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:memory card? memory? card reader? mcu? pc?

As a young boy, Ho was very enthusiastic in electronic products.
The current trend in the Taiwan consumer electronics market is memory cards. Memory cards have taken the place of traditional floppy disks and is fast becoming the high-capacity memory medium of choice. Consequently, this prompted the vigorous development of card readers in the region. Unknown to many, B.C. Ho, STMicroelectronics' senior manager for memory products in Taiwan and technical marketing in the Asia-Pacific, was initially responsible for promoting this product in the local high-tech landscape.

Three years ago, memory card's popularity was limited to the digital camera industry. Until recently, its function was confined to storing photos taken from the camera. It was not a common application for PCs and because of this, only a few people had card readers. Ho discovered a different business opportunity for the memory card by marketing it as an alternative low-priced portable memory device. There was a growing number of different portable memory devices that appeared in the Taiwan market including portable hard disks and USB flash disks. These were used for storing information for the PC and portable computers. Ho believed that memory cards can also be used in the field of PCs, which made the card reader an important device since it connected memory cards to the PC.

To take advantage of the business opportunity in the portable memory market, Ho started to make the development plan for the MCU for card readers. Ho and his boss would sometimes argue whether they should even introduce the product. "It took me a long time to convince my boss that the card reader was the best medium to expand the application of memory cards. At that time, my boss and I thought that we could transfer and store the information in digital cameras to the PC by only using a connecting wire, so there was really no need to buy a card reader," Ho recalled.

Ho's persistence paid off. He finally persuaded the company to execute the plan. Hence, STMicro became the first MCU supplier to provide large quantities of card readers.

"We sold over 1 million MCUs to card reader manufacturers in Taiwan during the last two years," he proudly narrated. Ho adopted the model of cooperating with memory card manufacturers. Ho initially started the plan by coordinating with a local manufacturer named Power Quotient International. STMicro provided support ranging from supplying components to designing and acquiring EMC/EMI certificates. As a result, the card reader program paved an even road for PQI to publicly list in the stock market.

"I'm very proud that I pioneered the development of this market," Ho expressed. In fact, after the mass production of MCUs in STMicro, some Taiwan companies followed suit.

Playing with the radio

B.C. Ho was born in Malaysia and as a young boy was very enthusiastic in electronic products. He would often do experiments using devices. "At that time, there was only vacuum radio to play with," he reminisced. He enrolled at the electronics department of Taiwan University and started working as a design engineer for Holtek Semiconductor Inc. even before graduating.

He stayed with the company for half a year and, after receiving his diploma, went to Singapore to work as a firmware engineer in Thomson and then moved to SGS where he developed MCUs. His engineering job lasted until 1993 when he delved into the business side of the company.

"Being in charge of the MCU design was the biggest factor that pushed me to actively participate in marketing," he revealed. "The selling process cannot be finished without the close coordination between the business people and the engineers. As an engineer, I constantly communicate directly with our customers and assist sales people with the technical components of our products." As such, Ho's work became more connected with the marketing and distribution departments.

The nearer he was to customers, the more he became interested in the field of marketing. He often thought out some wonderful ideas to stimulate the industry. The card reader is one example, which has led the performance of the company's MCU department from average to excellent. At the same time, the cooperation between STMicro and PQI resulted in an upsurge of sales in Taiwan's card reader market for over two years.

White man's territory

Before joining STMicro, Ho worked for many multinational companies in various Asian countries like Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia. He later joined STMicro in France and stayed there for three years before coming back to Taiwan. The stint in France was most valued because "working in a white man's society, an Asian would exert the best of his ability to prove his worth." Moreover, that experience made him even more familiar with the manufacturing of ICs and enhanced his technical abilities.

Subsequently, Ho was promoted to take charge of STMicro's Asia-Pacific technology service department and the EMS memory department in Taiwan. The new position demanded full responsibility in providing technology support to customers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Although the new assignment brought a heavy obligation, Ho does not feel the pressure. Maybe it has something to do with his personality and interest because he claims to derive enjoyment from facing challenges.

Aside from engineering and marketing, his other passion--that would surprise other engineers and colleagues--is practicing alternative medicine. He was taught acupuncture and moxibustion by a senior doctor that he looks up to. Though he claimed that he is still in the basic learning stage, some of his companions commented that Ho already has enough knowledge to heal other people.

"I don't have a license yet, so I only cure myself," said Ho. Perhaps, after a few more years, "I would go to mainland China and take the exam for acupuncture and moxibustion," he revealed. If he succeeds in passing the test, this engineer-turned-businessman may venture into another area once more.

- Joy Teng

Electronic Engineering Times - Asia

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