One on One with Intel China President Ian Yang.
The world’s second-largest economy, China has also been the fastest-growing major economy, averaging double-digit growth rates for the past 3 decades. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial panic, that robust growth was a rare bright spot in a shaky world economy. As its economy shifts from white hot to sustainable growth, the country faces both challenges and opportunities.
As president of Intel China, Ian Yang oversees Intel’s business in a dynamic market that is not only huge, but changes rapidly. Yang has been with the company since the mid-1980s and became president of Intel China in 2009. In a recent interview, Yang spoke about the country’s shifting economic climate, cloud computing, and the three handset makers introducing Intel-powered phones to the China market this year.
China’s explosive economic growth has been tapering off in 2012. What’s the impact?
The macro economy brings impact to all, including Intel. The Chinese government is trying to lead the economy toward a controlled “soft landing” by balancing economic development with China’s long-term prosperity. We are keeping a close eye on this and are focusing on areas we see China investing heavily in, like the data center build-out, cloud computing and the mobile Internet.
Intel’s strategy is to keep innovating products and services. There are always opportunities for Intel and industries to provide more compelling products. For instance, we achieved breakthrough in the next-generation Ultrabook convertibles that converge notebook and tablet. Consumers are not only striving for personalized devices, but those that allow multiple user experiences. Integration of a number of devices to one single device is the trend.
Businesses usually have a slower pace adopting new products. The new Ultrabook with touch may be an exception. It delivers the necessary productivity that businesses require while adding on with a more flexible operation and keeping the form factor.
There have been reports of sub-$50 (US) Android tablets in China. What’s the reality of “cheap tablets” in China and are people choosing them over brand name tablets?
China has a unique ecosystem, especially with the free Android application market. Low-end tablets are mainly targeting for entry-level consumers. Some get a cheap tablet just for simple functions such as GPS and eBooks. We are working with China’s low-cost ecosystem to launch tablets around a $150 price point. These tablets are with much better performances and deliver full-function tablet user experience.
How are smart city technologies being deployed in China and what’s the impact for the average person?
China is developing smart city technologies. Though ecosystem and product readiness are still in early stages, the government is driving aggressively. The size of the population, land mass and remoteness of some areas bring a huge amount of challenges, especially in areas such as energy allocation, transportation and healthcare. We see a lot of opportunities, and with smart city technologies a more efficient and intelligent China.
What’s your outlook on how Intel-powered smartphones will fare in China?
Our phone silicon has a lot of performance advantages that people don’t give us credit for yet. I bring a Medfield-based phone with me everywhere I go and show off what it can do. People are really impressed.
But again, while we’re focused on the huge phone market, let’s not forget that for every few hundred smartphones sold, there’s a server supporting it. There’s huge opportunity for data center growth.
So it’s clear we need to be in smartphones, and that’s what is going to drive a lot of China’s future growth. Plus, an increasing number of first-time buyers will probably buy a phone before they buy a PC. So you cannot ignore the fact that smartphones are going to be reaching a lot more people faster than PCs.
In a country where YouTube and other social media platforms like Facebook are censored, what are the challenges of doing business in China?
I think Intel has been consistently successful in forging strong partnerships by collaborating with others, helping local companies like Lenovo, ISVs, system integrators and our channel partners to grow.
There are Chinese companies like Tencent, Sina, Baidu and Youku that offer various kinds of Internet social media services to hundreds of millions of people, and Intel has developed very good business relationships with them.
Competition for good employees is very keen in China. How do you manage to recruit and keep top talent?
It’s a constant challenge. I think we have to continue to provide development opportunities for employees. We have to engage them regularly, making sure we understand their career aspirations.
You’ve been at Intel for just over a quarter-century. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in that time?
You really, really have to constantly think ahead. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do. You have to empower yourself and push ahead by defining the strategy, defining the agenda and bringing the rest of the team along with you.
You have to think about things that other people haven’t thought about. You have to cause things to happen. I often tell myself, “OK, we need do to this in China. This is a huge opportunity.” Then I get my team excited and, like Intel [co-]founder Robert Noyce said, “Go off and do something wonderful!”