Taiwanese computer maker now also produces LCD displays It may say Dell on the case but chances are high your laptop was made by Quanta Computer. Ditto for the notebook which carries the Hewlett-Packard brand name. The Taiwanese contract manufacturer produced an estimated 9.8 million laptops last year, according to Taiwan's Market Intelligence Centre, with about two-thirds coming from its plant in Shanghai. It commands 34.2 per cent of the world market. Now Quanta, which had about US$8.8 billion in sales last year, hopes to extend its dominance to liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions. 'We want to be half notebook, half non-notebook. It will all depend on how well we do in the TV business,' chairman and chief executive Barry Lam said. The move into LCD televisions comes as major computer brands such as Dell and HP push into the living rooms of American consumers. Dell has unveiled 17-, 23- and 30-inch models, while HP reportedly has placed an order with a Taiwanese manufacturer. Gateway had given Quanta an order for LCD TV sets and Mr Lam said he hoped to sign on Dell and HP as well. But becoming a powerhouse in LCD TVs will not be easy. The market is crowded, with mainland companies such as TPV Technology and Skyworth Digital Holdings also vying for business. Clearly, Quanta is relying on its strong links to Dell and HP to eventually win their orders. Mr Lam said the company had an edge as the only original equipment manufacturer which makes panels and also does final assembly. Companies such as Chi Mei Optoelectronics make panels but not finished sets. The TV makers, meanwhile, are at the mercy of panel makers amid tight supply. 'Only the guy with panels can run this business,' Mr Lam said. The company's LCD unit, Quanta Display, has two plants in Taiwan, a 3.5-generation factory and a fifth-generation one. These operations primarily make panels for use in notebook computers and desktop displays. A US$2.5 billion sixth-generation plant is underway in northern Taiwan and will reach mass production in the third quarter of next year. By that time, the plant will have a monthly capacity of 90,000 glass sheets measuring 1,500mm by 1,855mm. This works out to 22 million 17-inch panels per year. But some market watchers question whether the company is too late with plans for its sixth-generation plant. Deutsche Bank analyst Frank Lee noted South Korea's LG will have its sixth-generation factory up and running by the fourth quarter, while Sharp's is already operational. Meanwhile, Chi Mei and AU Optronics are scheduled to have their sixth-generation plants ready by the first quarter of next year. 'If you want to be in TVs, you want to be as early as possible,' Mr Lee said. And while computer firms such as Dell are moving into LCD TVs, they face formidable competition from established brands such as Sony. In the short run, this has not been a concern for investors, who have bid up shares in Taiwan-listed Quanta Display about 166 per cent over the past year, amid a cyclical upturn in the LCD industry. '[Flat panels] are the star industry in Taiwan,' said one fund manager, who owns European convertible bonds for Quanta Display. Like other Taiwanese electronics manufacturers, Quanta has been shifting production to the mainland in recent years to take advantage of lower labour and land costs. In addition to notebooks, about two-thirds of the five million mobile-phone handsets it produced last year were manufactured at its Shanghai plant. Having operations on the mainland also allows the company to be closer to its vendors. There is no plan to set up LCD panel plants on the mainland, but its assembly of TVs takes place there. 'TVs are very cost-sensitive,' he said. Mr Lam, who was born in Shanghai and raised in Hong Kong, also saw a role for his birth city in his company's operations. 'We can do a design company in Hong Kong,' he said, citing the example of Solomon Systech, which designs LCD controller chips for mobile-phone displays. Mr Lam said he was looking at the Science Park in Tai Po, though he declined to give a timeframe or investment amount for the project.