Ina Fried

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Taiwan’s Asus Aims to Enter U.S. Smartphone Market Next Year

Asus has made a business out of finding niches where other computer makers had yet to see them. But in trying to crack the U.S. smartphone market, the company could face its hardest test yet.

Asus Chairman Johnney Shih

Asus Chairman Jonney Shih

The American market is known for being among the world’s toughest, a place where even big global brands like Sony and LG have struggled in recent years. The high end is dominated by Apple and Samsung, while the low end is filled with competition from longtime players and from up-and-comers such as Huawei and ZTE.

Asus Chairman Jonney Shih said his company has been taking its time, building relationships with the carriers and retailers that will be necessary for the company to succeed.

“For the phone, frankly speaking, we are still the latecomers,” Shih told AllThingsD in an interview after the release of the Nexus 7 last week. “We are making progress.”

Asus started in countries where it already had stronger relationships with retailers and carriers. Now, Asus has its eye on the U.S.

Shih said the company is already hard at work, but that a 2013 release may not be in the cards.

“I think next year is more reasonable,” Shih said.

Asus’ most notable telephony products have been those that are something of a hybrid device. The Padfone is an Android smartphone that can dock into a larger screen that adds battery capacity and morphs the device into a tablet.

The Fonepad, meanwhile, is a 7-inch tablet capable of also making phone calls. That product was designed to take advantage of the fact that phones are being used less and less for calling and more for their computing prowess.

Shih said he has been pleasantly surprised to see people using the device as a phone. Still, he said there is a limit to what the pocket — and thus the market — can bear when it comes to phone size.

And Asus isn’t done with its combo devices.

The company recently introduced the Transformer Book Trio, which combines Windows and Android and aims to be tablet, laptop and desktop all in one package.

Asus is also on the third generation of the Padfone as well as its Transformer series of Android tablets that dock to a keyboard. And there’s more to come with that effort, Shih promised.

“I think we are going to have something even more revolutionary for this series,” Shih said.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald