Viewsonic bets on Convergence

Commoditization, as outlined in my story, The Rise of the Instant Company, is helping companies diversify, and get into previously unrelated businesses quite easily. One such company is Viewsonic, which for nearly a decade sold computer monitors but has recently diversified into Plasma Televisions, LCD TVs, notebooks, PDAs and a whole slew of products that fit the concept of “digital lifestyles.”

While researching the story I wrote for Business 2.0, I had a chance to catch up with James Chu, the maverick entrepreneur behind Viewsonic. I had originally written about Viewsonic four years to the day today when I worked for Forbes Digital Tool, the online edition of Forbes magazine. Chu, a Taiwanese immigrant and a college drop-out impressed me enough that I have followed his career arch. During the course of that initial chat, he said that the main reason Viewsonic succeeded was because the company had a focus on monitors which his competitors lacked.

However, four years later he has changed his tune, and has put his company on a collision course with large consumer electronics players such as Sony, Samsung, and Toshiba. Of course he is battling in the market place with computer makers such as Dell and Hewlett Packard. Why? “I think PC is becoming more of a media and entertainment device,” he says, and expects various monitors, and that includes television and computer monitors to merge.

“The convergence of PC and TV is happening quite quickly and I think HDTV is going to accelerate that,” Chu predicts. He is confident that this bet on convergence is going to help double the company revenues to $2 billion. “Sony is coming at this from consumer electronics angle, while HP & Dell are coming from the PC side,” he points out. But they are beholden to their legacy. Chu makes a valid argument, when he says, “So there is no one who is well positioned and we think we are it.” His main weapons – low costs and speed. Viewsonic in last 12 months has introduced nearly a dozen odd new products including the latest, a Tablet PC.

Viewsonic, thanks to lack of legacy, can enter new markets quite easily. By working with sub-contractors in Asia and partnering with the likes of Intel and Microsoft, Chu believes that Viewsonic can move much more quickly than his rivals. “Our costs are low because Intel and Microsoft are spending a lot of money on technology.” So Viewsonic does not have to! That’s one way to turn Moore’s Claw into an iron fist to bust up one’s rivals!