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Interview with David Lin, Sr. Product Manager for MiTAC Mio
March 2004

Mio logo

The MiTAC Mio line of PDAs and MS Smartphones have been a hit in Asia, but we in the US could only look and drool. That is, until March 2004 when the Mio 168 Pocket PC running Windows Mobile 2003 hit the US market. Not only is it a strong Pocket PC, but it's the first one to have an integrated GPS. The Mio 168 was released in mid-March, and interest and demand have been very strong. This is only the beginning: in the future we'll be seeing another Mio device in the US.

David Lin is Senior Product Manager for MiTAC Mio products. He's provided us with some great insights into Mio's vision and the genesis of the Mio 168.

Interview: Tell us about MiTAC and Mio as companies. We've heard that Mio will be a separate company which will provide branded as opposed to OEM products.

David Lin: Yes, that's correct. Because this market segment is very important to us, we've decided to spin-off a dedicated company to focus on branded, consumer electronics products in North America called Mio Technology. This will be the first time we sell our product here under the MiTAC/ Mio name.

MiTAC is one of the largest PC manufacturers in the world. We have been building PCs, workstations, servers, and other related products for many Tier One computer companies for over 20 years. In fact, MiTAC builds 15% of the world's Pocket PC devices. Chances are you've used a computer, laptop, or PDA built by MiTAC, you just didn't know it!

We're excited about launching Mio Technology here in the US. In many ways, it's like operating a start-up, but we have the benefit of leveraging the infrastructure and resources of MiTAC International. Although Mio Tech is considered a separate entity, both companies will continue to work closely together to provide the best possible customer experience. Mio Tech will be responsible for sales, product marketing, and service and support, while MiTAC will continue the R&D and manufacturing operations. US PDA fans looked longingly at MiTAC's Pocket PC and MS Smartphone offerings, which were available only on the Asian market. Why did you decide to enter the US market, and why was the Mio 168 selected as the first device offered here?

David Lin: It always seems like the cool products come out in Asia first! I'm happy to say we're finally bringing some of that technology over here. We felt the timing was right to enter the US market, as more people are becoming familiar with GPS and the benefits of satellite navigation. At the same time, there hasn't been any real innovative hardware development on the Pocket PC side, so introducing the Mio 168 as our primary product made perfect sense.

GPS is really a killer app for PDAs in general, and the Mio eliminates the need to install and configure a CF or Bluetooth solution. The navigation software is pre-installed and everything works right away when you first turn it on. And from a price standpoint, consumers get the benefit. Instead of buying a Pocket PC, then purchasing an add-on GPS device, you can opt for the Mio at a significant savings. We even included all the accessories you need for your car!


Mio 168

The Mio 168 with integrated GPS Garmin has been the only company to offer an integrated PDA/GPS solution and their focus has been on the GPS side of the market. Tell us about your company's vision for marketing and supporting this device.

David Lin: Garmin makes some great GPS devices and they've done well crossing over into the PDA market. I think it's fair to say, however, that they have developed a GPS with PDA functionality. Our design philosophy was to look at the current PDA feature set and take it to the next level. It's a subtle difference, but the way Mio Tech is positioning the 168 is that it's a Pocket PC first, and GPS is simply one of the added features—it's the Ultimate Pocket PC! You can still run all your favorite applications, games, and play your media files. GPS should be a seamless tool and our goal is to achieve a level of user experience where using the GPS is as easy as looking up your Contacts or checking your Calendar.

I think mobile professionals will find the compact form factor and the integration with Microsoft applications (such as Outlook) a definite advantage. We've designed the Mio 168 for the boardroom, not the backwoods. Tell us about the GPS software evaluation process. How long did it take, how many candidates did you consider? What was it about the Destinator and NAVTECH products that were so attractive?

David Lin: Well, great products utilize great components. That's why we partnered with some of the industry leaders in this product category such as NAVTECH, PowerLOC, SiRF Technologies, Intel, and Microsoft.

NAVTECH has some of the most comprehensive map data available today. We wanted to work with them because of their reputation for accuracy, detailed coverage, and their extensive POI database. They have a huge staff of field researchers just driving around verifying and updating road data. It's quite amazing actually; they update everything from roads and addresses to turn restrictions and one-way streets.

We needed a robust, flexible software solution for the Mio 168, and Destinator was at the top of the list. The integration of the Destinator platform with the Windows Mobile OS and our GPS chipset proved to be a great combination in our initial testing. The turn-by-turn voice navigation is the best on the market. We will also be launching the Mio 168 in Europe , and Destinator has very good maps for that region. We are continuing to work closely with PowerLOC to enhance the features of Mio Map. Who designed the Mio 168, and how long did it take to design and create the product?

David Lin: The Mio 168 is 100% designed and manufactured in-house by MiTAC. Our development cycle is usually quite fast, as we have an extensive, dedicated staff that is responsible for all aspects of engineering, production, marketing, and logistics. Will we see more Mio PDA and/or MS Smartphone devices released in the US?

David Lin: Yes, definitely! The Mio 558 will also be introduced in the US soon. The 558 is the first Pocket PC with dual slots (CF and SD/ MMC), WiFi, Bluetooth, and a mini-USB port. We've been getting a lot of requests for our Smartphone series, including the 8380 and the recently released (in Asia ) 8390. We are still evaluating the market demand here and based on feedback we will make an assessment on the best way to release these products. As you know, partnering with a carrier requires a lot of planning. Still, there are also some cool mobile products on the horizon that we will be releasing here that I can't talk about yet, but please stay tuned!




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