Taiwan brainstorms ideas for future handheld devices

 Taiwan will offer local manufacturers ideas and subsidies to build novel handheld products, aiming to triple the island’s production of such devices by 2014, a government researcher said Thursday.

A public-private task force led by the Ministry of Economic Affairs will develop ideas for smartphones, PDAs, e-readers and smaller tablet PCs, said Shang Chih-chiang, an IT industrial development researcher with the ministry’s Industrial Development Bureau.

Display panels, GPS technology and advances in cloud computing will be in particular focus as the task force seeks to raise the smart handheld industry from about NT$502 billion (US$17 billion) last year to NT$1.68 trillion in four years, ministry sources said.

Taiwan needs the new ideas to compete with China and South Korea, Shang said.

Preliminary ideas include retooling smart devices to help with police investigations and to be useful for people on bicycles — while in motion. Bike-mounted handhelds would come with displays bright enough to be seen from the saddle, Shang said.

Because Taiwan’s tablet sector is keeping up with those overseas, while it lags in smartphones, much of the attention will likely go toward the development of the pad-like devices, said Ben Yeh, a tech analyst at KGI Securities in Taipei.

“Initially Taiwan didn’t have that much to offer, because it once focused mainly on OEM contracts,” Yeh said. “Tablets are a good angle from which to start now. They’re new items.”

The best ideas will go to a semi-governmental research institution for refining. The ministry will then offer manufacturers subsidies to develop the fully fledged ideas, Shang said.

The ministry has not picked any specific firms, though the spotlight will probably fall on giants such as Acer and Asustek Computer.

It will take the task force at least five months to pick the ideas as it pools its brainpower, Shang said.

“We are doing research to see what Taiwan needs and how the manufacturers can get it done,” he said.

The government would have a better sense then of how much the project would cost, he said. The cabinet said in a newsletter that Taiwan may seek foreign investment as well for its smart handheld endeavors.