updated 05:32 pm EST, Wed December 11, 2013
Foxconn putting $6.8 million into wearable tech
Foxconn - also known as Hon Hai, assembler of Apple's iPhones and iPads - is looking to capitalize on the anticipated boom in wearable tech by starting an investment fund to finance nascent companies working in the segment. Sources familiar with the project told Bloomberg this week that Syntrend Creative Park Co., a Foxconn unit, will administer the NT$200 million ($6.8 million) fund aimed at giving the firm a hand in the development of wearable devices in the vein of Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch, the Google Glass eyewear computer, and the suspected Apple iWatch. The move is the latest by Foxconn to diversify its operations to handle more things than the construction of iOS devices for its most lucrative partner.
In addition to handling the assembly of Apple's devices, Foxconn puts together devices for Hewlett-Packard, but the company is aware of the potential for a downturn in its fortunes should those or any of its other partners see slumping demand for their wares. For that reason, Foxconn has been looking at selling its own branded accessories, according to reports, and it is said to have been considering opening its own retail operations.
Initial reports on Foxconn's plans had the company looking into producing accessories, including cables, headphones, and keyboards that would be compatible with Apple products. Now, though, Foxconn looks to be taking a stronger hand in guiding a still-young industry.
Wearable tech devices like Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch are expected to become a big industry in the next few years.
Under Foxconn's supposed program, as many as 20 wearable tech startups will see funding at about NT$1 million each. The company will work with local and international universities to sponsor promising students in hardware and potentially software.
A number of industry observers see wearable technology as a logical next step, given the level of saturation in the premium smartphone market. As the smartphone form factor appears to have largely matured, manufacturers will be looking to new devices in order to continue revenue growth. To that end, a number of manufacturers are looking at wearable devices, and the industry may move tens of millions of units in the next few years.
Among the companies admittedly or rumored to be working on smartwatches and wearable tech are ZTE, Apple, LG, Microsoft, and more. Google has already released prototype versions of its Google Glass device, and the company bought a smartwatch maker last year.