Shenzhen-based Huawei has grown from a Cisco competitor to a global giant engaging in everything telecoms and IT alike, with mobile devices being one of their major focuses. Here we talk to their top phone and tablet guys, Frederic Fleurance and David Wei, on the directions forward.
While we eagerly await the upcoming Huawei phones and tablets with their own first ARM CPU, there's a lot of other activity going on with their mobile products division. We had a chat in Shenzhen with their executives focusing on these markets. Frederic Fleurance, the global marketing director for handsets (his previous Vodafone and HTC work experience obviously helps here), and David Wei, director of convergence terminal products (yes, tablets are classified in that category).
1. What is Huawei's view on the Chinese mobile device vendors' evolution from low value high volume OEM products to high end, top value, branded approach; what's Huawei's experience in this?
It makes sense for ODM vendors to work towards establishing a strong, recognizable brand in order to increase their profit margins. With labor costs expected to increase, this shift is especially important for Chinese companies with products in the low-end of the market who are known for competing on price.
Huawei’s approach to this transition has been to invest significantly in R&D. We are focused on building our brand by providing innovative mid- to high- end products, such as the Ascend P1 and Ascend D quad smartphones. Through our products, we are committed to providing consumers with the latest and most innovative technology.
2. High end smartphone; phone-tablet (such as Samsung Note) and high end tablets; tell us more about Huawei product strategy in each of these 3 markets
The high-end smartphone market is, and will continue to be, a priority for Huawei. We have already launched our Ascend series of high-end smartphones, and both the Ascend P1 and Ascend D quad will be on the market later this year. We see tablets as having the potential to change the existing laptop industry in terms of personal computing and mobile internet. Tablets also have an important role to play in making the connected home a reality. For this reason, Huawei has already invested in the development of the MediaPad and MediaPad 10 FHD. In our view, the market for the hybrid size phone tablets is currently very niche, so while we are evaluating the possibilities, we have not made a firm decision on our strategy in this area.
3. Competitive positioning feel vs other big players like Samsung, LG, Apple, Nokia etc. as well as local players as ZTE and Lenovo. Both how it is today, and where does Huawei see itself in the near future?
Huawei aims to be one of the top industry players within the next three years. We are currently focused on building our brand and developing an exciting and innovative portfolio of products. We aim to ship 60 million smartphones this year, while increasing the volume steadily in the years to come. Vertical integration, for example, chipsets, energy saving technology, camera and display improved software management, will set us apart from our competitors, and allow us to reduce operational costs and time to market.
4. Huawei ARM processors in their phones and tablets, the market opinion I heard is 'fast CPU, but not so good GPU compared to Qualcomm or Nvidia'. How's Huawei positioning and plan for their mobile device ARM processors in the near future, and are other CPU architectures like Atom or some local Chinese CPU architecture possible to consider?
Our February benchmark test showed we had the best GPU performance (GL benchmark) on the market, and a CPU capacity (DMIPS) equivalent, if not better, than that of our competitors. The Huawei Ascend D quad is the only device to run the quad-core K3V2 chipset, and this will be available in selected markets later this year.
5. What do you think about beyond HD displays in tablets, such as the 2048×1536 iPad 3? Would it make sense to have larger, like 11 -12 inch, super tablets with such resolutions and aspect ratios, since 4:3 or 16:10 are a far more productive format for a screen than 16:9.
Higher definition provides consumers with an improved visual experience, and developing higher definition displays for our products is area of ongoing focus for our R&D. High definition displays have an impact both on content providers and supply chain partners, specifically LCD, CPU and GPU vendors. In addition, we are cognizant of the impact of this technology on the size, weight and overall portability of the product itself. For these reasons, we need to be satisfied that we are providing technology at the right time to enhance the end-user experience. Our MediaPad 10 FHD comes with a high resolution 1920 x 1200 screen in 16:10 aspect ratio, and we have more high definition products coming up.
6. Android, Windows Phone, or iOS: assuming there were no licensing hurdles, which platform would be the first choice for Huawei to use on their phones and tablets? Or, maybe, an OS platform of its own?
Huawei has a consumer-centric philosophy, and as a result, our portfolio will continue to reflect the needs of the market and consumers within it. That said, we have seen a real demand among consumers for phones running Windows and so plans are currently in place for Huawei to launch a device running on Windows in the near future.
Mr. Frederic Fleurance