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Asustek aims to be top smartphone vendor in Taiwan

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's Asustek Computer Inc. (華碩科技) said Thursday that it is aiming to be the top smartphone maker in the local market for the rest of the year as the company will boost its inventory from September.

Asustek CEO Jerry Shen (沈振來) told a press briefing that his company sold more than 550,000 of its low-cost ZenFone range of handsets in Taiwan between June and August.

The three-month total could have reached 600,000 units but was dragged down by a shortage of the 5-inch model in August due to strong consumer demand, he said.

Despite the shortage, Shen added, Asustek is still forecast to lead the local smartphone market this month with an estimated 27-28 percent share.

ZenFone Supply

He added that he expects the ZenFone supply in Taiwan to hit 200,000 units per month from September when the undersupply is resolved, giving the company a dominant 30 percent market share for the rest of the year.

Shen noted that the still-under-development second generation of ZenFone, codenamed the ZenFone 2, is likely to hit Taiwan stores in early January next year with two major price bands of NT$5,000 (US$168) and NT$10,000.

Thanks to the strong demand for the first-generation ZenFone, the chief executive predicted that Asustek's global smartphone shipments will beat its target of 2.6 million units for the third quarter and then continue to grow to 4 million units in the fourth quarter.

Asustek Chief Financial Officer David Chang said at the press briefing that the company's smartphone business is forecast to turn profitable in September and onward into the fourth quarter.

Voice Control, Price Band of Android Wear Watch

Asustek confirmed Thursday that its upcoming ZenWatch — a smartwatch powered by Google Inc.'s Android Wear system — will come with a voice recognition feature and an under-US$199 price band.

Shen said that the ZenWatch, which is due for launch Sept. 3 in Germany ahead of the IFA electronics trade show, will initially pack English-enabled voice recognition when it goes on sale in October.

Chinese language support for the watch's voice control is expected to be released by the end of this year, depending on Asustek's third-party developer of the feature, Shen said.

The smartwatch will have only one size and will cost less than US$199 when it hits stores in the United States and other selected markets from October, he added.

The ZenWatch can be used alone or paired with Android phones, including Asustek's low-cost ZenFone models, to enable more functions, Shen told reporters without elaborating.

In early August, Asustek claimed that its smartwatch had been “well received” by Google, which selected Asustek as one of its hardware partners for the Android Wear initiative in March, as the new watch looks better than competitors' products but comes with a relatively low price tag.

Android Wear is a version of Google's popular Android operating system and is designed specifically for wearable devices. The U.S. search giant said it is working with several hardware manufacturers and chip-makers to build new devices based on Android Wear.

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