Stories by Ralph Jennings

  • Taiwan strategy seen making low-end phones even cheaper

    A little-known Taiwanese semiconductor firm's ambitious plan to grow mobile phone semiconductor sales in China this year foreshadows what analysts see as boom in low-end handsets not only in the world's largest market but also in other countries where not everyone wants an iPhone.

  • Taiwan considers letting China invest in LCD panels

    Taiwanese officials are discussing ways to let investors from mainland China buy stakes in the island's LCD panel makers, an economics ministry representative said on Monday. Taiwan is weighing the political risk of Chinese investment against local businesses' need for capital to fund equipment upgrades.

  • Verizon starts testing voice over its LTE network

    Verizon Wireless said on Thursday it had made the first voice call over a commercial LTE network using the Voice over LTE standard. The standard is one of two competing to become the defacto technology for routing voice calls over the new data networks.

  • Taiwan's Internet economy fights to find talent

    Tseng Chien-lin turned down an offer from the Taiwan offices of Yahoo to take a job with a barely known Internet startup involved in the design of a social application centered on dining out.His older brother had suggested that Tseng be safe and go with the big name. Most Taiwanese would opt for the massive, well-known tech firms in order to earn more money and reduce risk that their employer might not survive in the long term.Shaky Internet startups may be fine for Silicon Valley, where employees will take a chance on them in the hopes of getting in early on what may become a big success. But in Taiwan, where schools and parents urge playing it safe for cultural and economic reasons, Tseng’s decision to join the 15-person staff of Genie Capital made him something of a rebel.The rebel found a match. Genie Capital’s three American-influenced partners urge open debate among engineers, allow scribbling on the walls and keep two dogs in the wide open work space on the 17th floor of a Taipei office tower. This is a stark contrast to the Taiwan norm: cubicles, no debate, no scribbling, no dogs.“At a larger company the job duties break down very specifically, so there’s less of a challenge,” said Tseng, 26, a graduate of the island’s top-ranked National Taiwan University.“I think here it’s very open. You can see what others are doing and say what you want,” said Tseng, who goes to work in a ragged shirt emblazoned with racy words. “I’m not saying I’ll be here several years, but I want to stick around to see results.”Taiwan’s Internet startups are few, small and tough, believing that persistence will reward them. But they struggle to find people such as Tseng: qualified engineers willing to take career risks such as speaking out on the job and living with uncertainty about where the startup is going.“Because so much manufacturing is here, Taiwan needs software to go with the hardware,” said Jamie Lin, founding partner of the year-old incubator and venture capital firm appWorks Ventures in Taipei. “We’ll probably stumble a little bit. There’s going to be a latency until the talent realizes there are opportunities.”Today the Internet economy lacks the government research and funding that supports Taiwan's hardware industry, which leads Taiwan's more than US$400 billion economy. Some officials don’t know what the Internet economy is. But they concede that the best talent goes to the biggest, best-known firms.A series of major IPOs would draw that talent’s attention to online business. E-commerce in Taiwan is already worth US$10 billion, with advertising estimated at $300 million last year, Lin said. <a href="">Any public listing by Facebook or LinkedIn</a>, both known in Taiwan, would particularly captivate Taiwan's 2.58 million college-level students, he speculated.“The first (startup) to be on par with something from New York or Silicon Valley will be hugely successful,” said Genie Capital partner Jimmy Chen.

  • Intel, Taiwan school to research "Internet of things"

    Intel will invest around NT$750 million (US$25.8 million) in joint research with Taiwan's top-ranked university to raise the island's world tech profile and investigate how the Internet can detect and interact with objects, it said Thursday.