Interview – Henry Kao – Vice President GIGABYTE Motherboard Business Unit
Heny Kao is the Vice President of GIGABYTE Motherboard Business Unit and an old friend of ours – we did our first interview together back in 2010. The times have changed, GIGABYTE grew quite a bit in the last four years so it was time for us to have another conversation about GIGABYTE, the motherboard industry and the focus on overclocking.
lab501: Hello, and nice to see you again, it’s been 4 years since our last meeting. Back then we were discussing the economic crisis, now we are discussing growth and prosperity. What changed for GIGABYTE in the last 4 years? How did the sale numbers change and what is GIGABYTE’s position compared to it’s competitors?
Henry Kao: A major change has happened – GIGABYTE became the number one vendor in the motherboard industry since last year. And actually, I think the mobile industry helped us achieve this. Because 4-5 years ago, everybody was talking about notebooks. We were saying that the motherboard industry will continue to grow, and people use to laugh. But here we are now, and look at the motherboard business – it is still growing. Because if you need mobility you have many options now (smartphones, tablets, notebooks). But if you really need the power you will choose a desktop. And the people choosing a desktop do need that power.
lab501: What is GIGABYTE’s motherboard business unit main focus for the next years – how do you plan to expand your market share?
Henry Kao: As you know, I am in charge of the motherboard business unit, so my main priority is growing this division and growing the market in general. If you remember 2006, the main focus of manufacturers was price. The main business was entry-level mass market. Well, since 2006 we started using the best quality components and we focused on the mainstream and high-end area, providing quality, durability and performance. This is what helped us become the number one motherboard vendor in the world, and this is what we will be focusing in the future.
And we are still growing because we are offering solution for all needs – we have a special gaming motherboard series and also a separate overclocking motherboard series – actually we are the only motherboard vendor who has a dedicated series for each segment (for instance overlcocking, where we have 3 different models this year just for this purpose).
lab501: What is your opinion on the desktop market and it’s future?
Henry Kao: Things are changing here also and we are insisting on the performance desktop area. In the past the main volume of sales came from entry-level, as I said, but now the mainstream and the high-end are doing the majority volume of sales. We tried to educate the customer – through marketing, through the channel and also with the help of you guys. Today, if you worry about the price of a PC then you probably don’t need a desktop. But the people who use a desktop have very specific needs and we are helping them choose the best configuration for their needs. And Intel is also investing in the desktop market and especially in the high-end desktop market. So I think that in the future, just like in the past, those who want performance will still choose a desktop.
lab501: So you are the guys who were first to bring USB 3.0 to the market. So why didn’t we see any GIGABYTE USB 3.1 in Computex this year?
Henry Kao: As you know we are very close to the USB 3 vendors so that would not have been a problem but if you check with the USB association you would see that he specs and the certification for USB 3.1 are not ready yet. Our vendors already have the controllers but they are still waiting for the final certifications for this standard. So we will only use these controllers when the standard is final.
lab501: In the last 5 years we have seen a ton of new technologies – USB 3, S-ATA 6Gbps, m-SATA, Thunderbolt and so on. What’s next? What do you think will be the next big thing? Do you think we’ll see a wider spread of the Thunderbolt standard or will it remain dedicated only to high-end solutions ?
Henry Kao: Well first of all we will have all USB 3.0 motherboards, then of course we are already testing next generation of wireless products. Of course, USB 3.1 will come and also S-ATA M2 and S-ATA Express will become more widespread at one point. For now, S-ATA M2 is doing ok because it is already in ultrabooks but S-ATA Express still has to mature as a standard and the final retail products from partners (HDD, etc) should come to the market next year.
lab501: You guys invested a lot of money in promoting the classic G1 series look, with the military green, the skull with the knife and so on. And after 2 years in which that look got really popular with gamers, you changed it. Why did that happen?
Henry Kao: Unfortunately we got some negative feedback regarding the “military look” from certain countries. With all the things happening in the world right now we didn’t want to be associated with the “guns & war” look anymore.
lab501: Ok so there goes my last question – there once was a nice event called GOOC. I know it was a nice one because we won the last edition. So why is that nice event not happening anymore?
Henry Kao: We were always promoting this kind of events and I think you could see that after we did them many others did. But now, we are more inline with Intel on this, so I think in the future you will see more worldwide overclocking events. We don’t want to be the only ones doing this, if more people from the industry get into such an event then you will see bigger events with more people than GIGABYTE could bring if we would do it alone.
lab501: Well, that is good to hear! Thank you for your time!