The first half of 2022 saw Asus introduce a variety of products to its diverse new portfolio of powerful creator and lifestyle Vivobook laptops, Zenbook laptops and ROG gaming devices. This has helped the Taiwanese manufacturer stamp its authority as the leading consumer laptop and gaming laptop brand. We sat down with Jeff Lo, Regional Head of Asus Middle East to discuss the company’s future including upcoming products, breakthroughs and business growth.
The last two years have seen a radical shift in the way notebooks are used and designed. Do you think future upgrades will be more iterative or are we on the verge of even more radical changes in consumer notebooks?
Asus started innovation in the personal computing space more than 30 years ago. Innovations will never end because they are the essence of technological progress. The future advancement in the laptop industry will be focused on improving the user experience, because that is what matters the most. During the last few years, Asus has brought breakthrough technologies such as OLED displays, ScreenPad and dual-screen laptops to the market. We have also adapted to liquid metal cooling which is available across numerous ROG laptops as well as high refresh rate panels that bring the gaming experience to a new level.
For us, the next big things are the content creator segments and foldable displays giving a new spin to the user experience. For Asus, it is important to own the technology first and then apply a business model. This year, we introduced the Zenbook Fold 17 OLED, our first foldable OLED laptop that represents the best technologies that can be offered today. It transforms the user experience, and we are happy to announce that it will be available in Middle Eastern countries in September this year.
Demand for thin and light gaming notebooks is higher than ever. From an engineering standpoint, what are some of Asus’ achievements in the last two years to mitigate performance throttling with such laptop designs? Has actively informing the customers of this change through marketing resulted in greater demand for such notebooks?
As I mentioned earlier, liquid metal cooling has become a corner stone for gaming laptops. I believe this is the one of the most remarkable technologies that has been adapted in a wide product range since 2019. By applying liquid metal cooling, we have been able to reduce in-chassis temperatures of popular laptops like the Zephyrus G14, Zephyrus M16 and the Flow X13 by 10C, which has not only improved cooling performance but has also made the chassis more compact.
But the most important step our thermal R/D unit has been able to take in 2022 was using the latest 45W Intel Core CPUs in thin and lightweight Zenbook and Vivobook models that previously only had 20W or 28W CPUs in the same dimensions. This breakthrough was thanks to our advanced fan design with dual heat pipes and air outlet improving airflow by 25 per-cent, a significant improvement compared to today’s market competition. For example, the new fans and motors can push more air faster and easier thanks to a higher engine torque and properly designed aerodynamic blades. Asus puts a lot of effort to develop these components together with industry partners and does not just buy what is available from the OEM market by default.
With OLED display technology at the heart of most Asus laptops, what is next for displays? Is there a chance we may see mainstream devices shift to mini-LED like some of your product lineup? Building on this, does Asus think foldable display technology is mature enough to go mainstream?
Currently, our focus is on OLED displays. Asus is the biggest OLED display customer on the market, outperforming the competition. We own 68 per-cent of the OLED laptop market share worldwide and most important, OLED displays are already available in our mainstream products, such as Vivobook 15 (K6500 Series). Touching again on foldable displays, Asus is about to start shipping its first foldable laptop in September. We are excited to see how the technology on the Zenbook Fold 17 OLED will be perceived by our customers because in the end, this is a key success factor for Asus. There is a long way to go before foldable displays can go mainstream, because they are new and need time to be available in a wider product range.
Content creation is a growing market for the industry at its current phase of development. How do you assess the need for features such as a dial-pad or a secondary display and do you have any plans to expand your existing lineup with more ancillary products that help the content creation process?
The idea for creator laptops came from the gaming laptop market when we saw that around 30 per-cent of end users are not using gaming laptops to play games. They instead buy them because they are the most powerful laptops available compared to any other consumer segment. Most of the time, consumers need more performance related to different types of digital content creation such as music, film, architecture, 3D modelling, visual effects and social media.
Asus wants to have a product for each of these content creator categories. In 2019, we introduced the first creator products from the Studiobook series and earlier this year, we achieved the number one Creator brand award which shows how important this segment is for Asus. The potential market size next year is expected to be as many as two million so it is easy to understand why different brands push content creator oriented products.
Asus has managed to ship ultra-portable gaming notebooks with Intel’s H45 CPUs. The benefits of these chips are there for everyone to see. However, has the brand got plans to manufacture in-house processors to further integrate their desktop experiences for an even more seamless ecosystem in the future?
This industry has always been based on component vendors. We are happy with the CPU and GPU products we currently use and have great relationships with all our partners. Besides, as you mentioned, the products they make become better and more advanced every year, and Asus engineers have extraordinary experience in using the best available components to creative amazing innovative products.
What are some of the underlying trends that have emerged from operating in this region and are consumer trends and spending patterns radically different here compared to international markets?
With the UAE being a hub for trade and commerce in the region, it was able to retain consumer confidence with a well-managed effort to contain the impact of the pandemic. Organizations felt confident to move forward with their digital transformation and UAE’s overall commercial business recorded a YoY growth of 11 per-cent during 2020 and 17 per-cent during 2021 according to IDC reports.
As a ripple effect, business organizations across the GCC region are expected to invest in growing in-country operations by expansion and digital transformation thereby fueling PC business growth in the region. The pandemic accelerated e-commerce growth in the UAE up by 35 per-cent during 2021 and Consumer Electronics and IT topped growth charts. PC sales on e-commerce grew by over 60 per-cent in 2021 and this has encouraged major e-commerce players to create B2B online marketplaces offering commercial PC business a new dimension.
The UAE is well connected for global trade through import-export, so any fluctuations in international markets have a corresponding impact on local prices. Therefore, we can say in certain sectors, the price element is quite reliant on global trends and local e-commerce also competes with international online market prices.