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Friday, July 07, 2006
Electronics Giants Aim at Chinese Market

China has evolved into a leading electronics market, with newly wealthy consumers snapping up everything from the latest mobile phones to digital cameras and MP3 portable audio players.

In a nod to China's growing importance and sophistication, many of the world's top electronics makers -- from cellphone giants like Motorola and Nokia to chip designers like Intel -- now boast major product development and specialization centres in China.

Japan's Toshiba recently chose China as a global launch point for one of its newest notebook PC models with fingerprint technology, reflecting the market's growing prowess, a spokesman said.

The company, along with other peers bullish on China, was displaying the model this week at SINOCES, one of the nation's top electronics shows in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao.

Global electronics powerhouse Sony has gone a step further, recently launching the first product -- a portable music player -- from its year-old China workshop, the company's first such center in a market that is now its third largest.

In addition to playing music, the model's display screen can also be used as a photo viewer, and can allow a user to see the words to songs as they are being played, a feature popular with Chinese music lovers, said Sony spokesman Shinji Obana.

"An FM radio, MP3 player, photo viewer and Chinese lyrics -- this combination is quite tailored for the China market and is quite in demand by Chinese consumers," said Obana in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the electronics show.

This "Sinofication" of electronics is still a fledgling trend, highlighted by the fact that most of the products on display by multinationals at SINOCES were part of their global offerings.

But a distinct feature at this year's show is the sprouting of China-specific models, with many of the global players in attendance claiming to have one or more new models specifically developed with Chinese consumers at heart.

Another market player, Taiwan's BenQ , which bought Siemens' cellphone business last year, was also showing off its first-ever China-specific phones at the show, said Zhang Ming of the company's Shandong sales office.

BenQ's newly introduced E61 model, which like Sony's also went on sale in late April, features an MP3 player with music controls on the top.

Like the Sony music player, BenQ's model allows people to view lyrics on the screen as people listen to music, Zhang said.

"Sales have been very good," he said. "This has been our best selling model in China."

Down the aisle from BenQ, the cellphone joint venture between Sony and Sweden's Ericsson was showing off its first-ever Walkman cellphone specifically developed for China, said spokesman Michael Ning.

The Sony-Ericsson model, which went on sale just this month, uses the clam-shell form favoured by many Chinese, and also prominently displays the Walkman name for brand-conscious local consumers, Ning said.

It also contains other localized features, such as a calendar with Chinese holidays and Chinese-themed wallpaper.

"These are all features desired by the China market," he said. "There will be more China-developed models this year, and more next year after that."

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