Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Asus’s Chief Jonney Shih Dishes on How the New Nexus 7 Came to Be

Google and Asus had already set some pretty audacious goals for the redesigned Nexus 7. Starting last October, work began to make a second-generation device that was thinner, packed a faster chip, included a faster processor and a 1080p high-definition display, all while keeping the price about the same.

Sundar Pichai and Jonney Shih

But, at a meeting in Taiwan’s Taipei 101 skyscraper in January, the group agreed to try yet another trick — shave some more millimeters from the bezel that surrounds the seven-inch screen.

The change meant that one Asus engineer nearly had to postpone his wedding because he was in Mountain View, Calif., while another had to travel to the U.S. and then to China just after his wife had given birth to a daughter, but Asus managed to get it done.

“I feel so sorry for them,” Asus Chairman Jonney Shih said in an interview on Thursday. But, he said, he is very pleased with the results of all that hard work.

Another area where Google and Asus pressed hard was on the screen itself. The Nexus 7 is the first tablet to make use of the same kind of thin, high-resolution screen used in the iPad and other phones. Japan Display, which makes the screen, just opened a new facility in June, and Shih said Asus workers made lots of trips to Japan to make sure the supplier could really deliver to Google’s tight schedule.

“At the beginning, we didn’t consider JDI because of the cost consideration,” Shih said, but in the end, its screen was necessary to get the thinness and battery performance that Google and Asus wanted.

Shih has become used to the demands of working with Google, after building the first Nexus 7 in just four months — an effort some Asus engineers described as “like torture.”

But Shih said that the company’s Nexus work complements its other products, including its own line of competing Android tablets. Shih said products like Asus Memo HD is aimed at a different segment, selling for just $149 and using different technologies.

The Nexus 7, he said, is part of a broader strategy for the Taiwanese device maker, which has made a niche for itself both through low-cost devices and for its unique combination devices — such as the PadFone dockable phone, and its Transformer series of convertible Android tablets.

It’s an approach that started with the eeePC, one of the first netbooks, and a product that put the longtime motherboard maker on the map for devices. Since then, Shih said, the company has worked to put a new design philosophy into all the company’s products.

Combination devices are necessary in an era where people are constantly shifting between their work and personal lives.

“Now, people are more multifaceted — work and play are very hard to separate,” Shih said.

The Nexus 7 is just one of the things that Asus has been working on lately. Check back later this week for more from our interview with Asus Chairman Jonney Shih.


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google