bit-tech: Will the worldwide increase in the costs of raw materials affect the prices of, or build materials used in ASUS motherboards?
RL: Both the increase of material cost & labours cost have seriously eroded our profit margin recently. But unfortunately, in the PC industry, it's really hard to transfer this kind of cost-ups to the customers or end-users. So, you won't see the price-up for motherboard products in the near future. But I believe the price will become more stable in the future (I mean, price war won't happen so frequently), and it'll be very hard to see the price of the entry motherboards go even lower.
bit-tech: After the success of the EPU, does Asus have any others plans or ideas to further better the power efficiency of motherboards?
RL: Yes. Energy saving & environmental protection will continue to be the hottest topic people concerning about, so we have plan to further improve on this also. Basically we have been and will continue requesting the component vendors to create energy-saving IC's. And we will investigate any possible way to reduce the power consumption of the motherboard & even the whole PC system. Because current PC system still consumes a lot more energy than it really requires,
I would say the room for improvement is really huge. But all in all, if you want to see the dramatic reduction of the PC power consumption, then it must require the cooperation from all vendors of major PC components like: CPU, GPU, IC's, components, circuit design, peripheral devices, and even the operating system & software. From what a motherboard vendor can do, to be frank, it's still quite minimum. So, that's why we have to talk to the IC vendors from time to time and to reiterate the importance of energy saving.
bit-tech: Where do ASUS plan to take the ExpressGate technology? Do you plan to roll it out onto lower priced/budget/M-ATX motherboards?
RL: Yes. Now we have been phasing in Express Gate for our high end and mainstream motherboards, and for some of our entry motherboards as well. Both ATX and M-ATX form factors. But honestly speaking, the license fee of the Express Gate is still too high for the very entry segment of motherboards. Our target is to bring Express Gate technology to at least 90% of ASUS motherboard users within one or two years.
bit-tech: Are there any plans to include DVD, Blu-Ray or video file playback into ExpressGate? We feel the fast boot time and low resource footprint would be a fantastic option for media centre PCs.
RL: We do receive some feedbacks from customers requesting us to put media player functionality into Express Gate. We will take this request into consideration for sure. But again, the license fees for the CODEC is pretty high, it might increase the [motherboard cost quite a lot, and make the board price not so friendly. But anyway, it's a business decision; for certain home theatre PC segment, definitely it still makes sense to do so.
Bit-tech: Does ASUS plan to continue including legacy features like IDE, Floppy and PS2 ports on its motherboards in the future?
RL: We've been thinking about this kind of questions for thousand times, and debating it internally without an end. The difficult part to us is, we sell the motherboards to every corner of the world. Some territories do not accept the new technology as quick as other territories. And we still have to fulfil the demand of these territories.
We check the worldwide market from time to time, to make sure a legacy feature can really be taken off before we make the decision. Currently we have been removing floppy cables from the new product series, and replacing the good old CD-ROM driver disk to DVD-ROM. But I believe the IDE & PS2 ports will last until at least 2nd half of next year or even longer.
bit-tech: When will ASUS boards feature EFI BIOS?
RL: The EFI BIOS project has been kicked off inside ASUS for quite some while. But now the eco-system is not so ready, I mean, the EFI driver for most onboard components are not so well developed now, and hence there are limited things we can do on an EFI BIOS, and possibly users might experience more compatibility problems while using it. We're looking for better & more user benefits from EFI BIOS now. Before we're sure EFI BIOS can really bring more benefits to the end-users, we prefer using legacy BIOS & Express Gate to do the job.
Our thanks go to Richard Liu for answering our questions and Iverley Tseng for arranging the interview.