Taiwanese consumer electronics giant ASUS on Friday clarified its plans meant to revamp its Android smartphone operations, saying that the radical strategy shift announced yesterday won't be that radical after all. The previously outlined "mobile transformation plan" is aimed at bringing the company's focus away from the average consumer and instead concentrate it on power users, primarily gamers. While many an industry watcher interpreted those claims as the beginning of the end for the firm's ZenFone brand, ASUS now confirmed that isn't the case in no uncertain terms.
A clarification that delivers more questions than answers
Not only will the ZenFone name live on but so will the basic product design philosophy behind it, meaning ASUS will continue developing Android smartphones meant to compete in the low-end and mid-range market segments. The new clarification attempt delivers more questions than answers, with ASUS not elaborating on the matter any further. One possibility is that ASUS will simply be downscaling its non-flagship endeavors in the mobile segment due to issues with selling its current manufacturing volume in a timely manner. Another potential scenario would see the company cut down its research and development budget in those non-premium sectors in order to redirect its resources toward Android handsets intended for power users. Still, as evidenced by the general strategy of the world's top phone makers such as Samsung and Huawei, innovations in the high-end segment generally trickle down to more affordable devices and are often even relatively quick to do so, as evidenced by features such as fingerprint readers, waterproof builds, and dual-stereo speakers, all of which started being implemented into non-flagship smartphones less than a year following their debut in the most expensive handsets on the market.
A decade of Jerry Shen's rule
ASUS Chief Executive Officer Jerry Shen will be stepping down from his position and be replaced by two co-CEOs, effective January 1, 2019, exactly eleven years after he took over the Taipei, Taiwan-based original equipment manufacturer. His decade of leadership panned out worse than expected, with ASUS's stock halving over the said period. He's now set to be replaced by global customer service head Samson Hu and PC business chief S.Y. Hsu, two ASUS Vice Presidents that have been with the company for many years now and are well-acquainted with its operations. Mr. Shen suggested he's leaving the company on his own terms and is departing in order to take charge of iFast, a startup specializing in artificial intelligence and Internet of Things technologies.
The industry veteran will be assuming the role of both its CEO and Chairman, having already clarified his first goal will be establishing a significant and sustainable footprint in the business-to-business segment. The notion that his departure happened on good terms is further reinforced by the fact that ASUS has a 30-percent stake in iFast and intends to hold on to its investment. Mr. Shen already hinted at possible collaboration between ASUS and iFast, stating that the company he spent a quarter of a century at is still looking for a seamless transition into the AIoT segment and concluding he's hoping to help it achieve that goal.
An expensive transition
As far as ASUS's newly announced and still-confusing mobile strategy shift is concerned, while its exact contents are unknown, its cost has already been determined - the tech giant is soaking up a $190 million hit in order to clear inventory, revamps its R&D efforts, reorganize production operations, and do everything else necessary for its new approach to Android smartphones to come to life. The company's next handsets targeting mobile gamers and power users in general may be announced as early as Mobile World Congress 2019 which is kicking off in late February in Barcelona, Spain.