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Posted: December 26, 2007

Vietnam is Base for Thai Hardware Innovator

(Nanowerk News) A Thai PC peripheral importer is planning to set up a factory in Vietnam with the aim to become a major player in the low to mid-market--a segment dominated by low-end manufacturers from China.
Thomas Hong, CEO of Smart ID, explained that it is precisely because everyone assumes that China would steamroll this segment that nobody dares to enter. This has left this segment devoid of truly innovative competition, he said.
Vietnam was chosen as the location as it benefits from intra-Asean free trade and, unlike Thailand, still has the right skills at the right price.
Smart ID currently imports and sells Acrox, Lexma, Okion and Anitech low-end keyboards, mice, webcams and other peripherals. It has two full-time designers working on product prototyping and prepping for their partners.
The joint venture factory in Vietnam will be an important step to help Smart ID gain a share of the Asian market. The idea is not to produce for low-cost China or to export to the United States and Europe, said Hong, but to have an Asian sense of design and ergonomics that appeals to Asians.
For example, mice and keyboards should be designed for smaller Asian hands, he said, and also tastes in color and packaging that are different from the way companies such as Logitech and Microsoft market their peripherals.
Recently, Smart ID partnered with Asiasoft to create a keyboard for the popular Cabal online game. It was so popular that the first batch of 6,000 sold out within a week.
Thomas said he spent days observing how children played the game and noted which keys were used most often and this was incorporated into the design.
For the 2007 holiday season, Thomas said that the biggest new trend was a "healthier" mouse.
"We did research and found out that mice and keyboards are among the dirtiest things you have in your house. We clean our bathrooms regularly but when did you last clean your mouse or keyboard?" he asked.
His answer is an anti-bacterial nanotechnology coating which has been incorporated into the Lexmar mice and keyboards. Nanotechnology anti-bacterial fibers have been well accepted in the sportswear industry and hopes are that this will start a new trend for the desktop devices.
Top of the Lexmar lineup is a wireless Bluetooth, laser mouse with nanotech coating, and that can be recharged via a USB port. It is a combination which exemplifies Smart ID's approach to intelligent design, which Hong claimed, for some unknown reason, has eluded the more established market players.
Waterproof keyboards are also an important trend as they offer protection against office coffee-cup spills, he said.
Source: Bangkok Post (Don Sambandaraksa)