With 10 years and $1 billion spent on developing Creative Technology’s latest HanZpad tablet, is the man going full tilt?
Boo ya Apple! The HanZpad will take China by storm!
Head honcho of Creative Technology is back with a bang.
Having disappeared from the face of the media world for more than seven years, Sim Wong Hoo popped up at a press conference in Singapore last September, signalling what was then thought to be his imminent return.
And on Feb. 15, Creative’s share price bounced upwards of 71 percent, to close at $4.15, its highest since December 2010.
The big occasion? Sim announced the birth of the HanZpad Alliance in Beijing.
What on Earth is that you ask?
Well, subsequently after his Beijing appearance – since March, in fact – Sim has been chairing the HanZpad Alliance, a get-together of 20 Chinese and Taiwanese companies that manufactures, markets and distributes the spanking new HanZpad computer tablet.
At 57 years old, Singapore’s youngest billionaire is working something out with this two dozen partners and has set his sights on the Chinese market.
Creative Technology's HanZpad tablet.
Sim has made it known that Creative will have extensive control over HanZpad’s hardware specifications, chips and content framework.
On the other hand, Google’s Android software will power the device.
Moreover, Creative is setting itself apart from all competitors so far by producing Chinese-language content developed for its tablet, which includes textbooks for mathematics, science and other subjects.
And he is going to run wild with it in China.
As a sign of how far Creative is reinventing itself, here’s the figures: The company spent $1 billion on research and development over the past 10 years to make ZMS, which are new chips to power the HanZpad, alongside making other hardware technology.
Sim even admits that “maybe” Creative has even gone into the red with this project.
But it will be all worthwhile.
The purpose of the alliance is to drive the prices of electronic components production as low as possible, and translate it into affordability for users.
This takes Sim’s mind off these areas of components production to focus exclusively on making the best ZMS chips.
Creative’s share price has since settled at about $3.74 on April 5, a good sign, given that share price was at the all-time low of $2.50 last year.
The all-time high was in March 28, 2000, where it hovered at the ungodly peak of $64. (That was also the period where the U.S. tech bubble was at its most bulbous. And then everything went tits up after that…)
The HanZpad’s scheduled debut is late next month.
Thousands are expected to be manufactured, although no hard figures are provided.
Alliance members, as well as schools in China that are part of a Creative-led pilot project on e-learning with tablets, will receive the HanZpad before everyone else.
Together with the tablet, Creative has also developed a technology to translate physical books to soft copy format, at one-tenth the cost of what publishers will incur if they did it themselves.
The HanZpad will also be equipped with Chinese handwriting recognition software – a niche that will find its application for sure in China – that can accurately read different styles of handwriting.
However, Sim is quick to emphasise that he is not out to compete with Apple, which already has 70 percent of the Chinese market.
His aims are more noble.
He wants to make education available to all Chinese students and the HanZpad will come in handy.
This partly stems from his obsession with the Chinese language ever since he was a kid.
If the HanZpad does take off, it will seal this Singaporean businessman’s reputation as the brainchild of the wildest scalable business idea ever conceived in this country.
Sim is best known for building the Creative Music System in 1987, barely six years after he graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 1981.
His Sound Blaster device was launched in 1989 and sold 40 million units a year. By 2000, it had sold 100 million units of them.
At 45, Sim became the youngest billionaire on this sunny island.
It is still a wonder why he never qualified as one of Cleo’s top 50 eligible bachelors.
This is a 60-second reduction of the original article published in The Sunday Times on April 8, 2012.