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Taiwan postcards: A reporter's photojournal

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ODM? OEM?

I spent two weeks in Taipei and Hsinchu largely on the dime of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council getting reacquainted with a country I had not visited in a decade.

First impressions: The heat and humidity clutches you the instant you step off the plane.

The chaos and pace of life in a town flooded with scooters soon makes your head swim.

And it doesn't take long before you are charmed by genuinely friendly, gentle people who work hard and take pride in what they do, the teams they are part of and their island home.

Flags in Taipe


So, without further introduction, come follow me on my two-week trek.

Leonard Tsai

Tsai is vice president of Innovation Design Technology at Compal Electronics Inc.

Inside the ODMs
One of my main goals in Taipei was to develop contacts with ODMs, the companies who design and make the vast majority of the world's notebooks, desktops and servers but whose names few people know.

I started with Leonard Tsai, an old friend I had known since he was a motherboard R&D manager at Elitegroup in Fremont, California. Like many electronics engineers, Leonard's career has taken him through stints with many companies from small startups to giants like Hewlett-Packard.

Today, Leonard is vice president of Innovation Design Technology at Compal Electronics Inc. Compal is among the top ten ODMs in Taiwan with a long history of designing and building PCs for Dell, HP and Lenovo (formerly IBM), now trying to make the switch to tablets and smartphones.

Leonard's job is to help Compal make that shift. It's a big shift.

The ODMs have been focused on ultra-efficient execution, getting one product after another into and off the assembly line on a road map of microprocessors and operating systems releases clearly defined by Intel and Microsoft. In the new mobile world, it's all changed.

Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments offer a diverse set of ARM-based chips for tablets and smartphones that will all be supported by Windows 8. And it's not just a Microsoft world anymore. Demand is high for Google Android systems that require customization down to the mobile Linux kernel, forcing companies to staff up on a breed of software engineers hard to find in Taiwan.

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