Cher Wang isn’t just one of the richest people in Taiwan, she is also one of the world’s leaders in smartphone technology. The company Wang founded, HTC, makes more than one out of every six smartphones currently on the American market. HTC’s secret? Creating products directly for major brands such as Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile in reaction to perceived customer needs.
While HTC was founded as High Tech Computers and began in the late 1980s as a portable computer manufacturing firm, the company’s bread and butter these days is smartphone devices. The company’s latest projects include a series of low-cost 4G smartphones for Verizon and T-Mobile, along with a variety of Windows Phone 7 devices. And, they were the first to offer an Android phone.
The largest challenge currently facing Wang is a drawn-out legal battle with Apple. Shortly after HTC unveiled several Android-enabled smartphones, Apple sued the company over 20 alleged infringed patents. HTC launched an intellectual property countersuit in response, which is still in court. Public opinion has generally been behind HTC, with the lawsuit seen as a thinly-veiled attempt to cripple Google’s attempt to launch the Android mobile platform.
While Wang is a hugely successful entrepreneur on her own, she also comes from considerable wealth. Wang’s father, Wang Yung-Ching, was the chairman of the board of plastics mega-manufacturer Formosa Plastics Corporation and had an estimated wealth of US$5.5 billion by the time he passed away in 2008. The senior Wang, who lacked any formal schooling beyond elementary school, also played a key role in reconciliation efforts between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.
Wang is also half of one of Taiwan’s richest couples. Her husband is Wen Chi Chen, president and CEO of integrated circuit manufacturer VIA Technologies. In 2008, the joint wealth of Wang and Chen was estimated at US$3.5 billion by Forbes. Wang is also VIA Technologies’ chairperson.
Her greatest corporate gambit was turning HTC into an indispensable ally of both Google and Microsoft. In the coming years, HTC is poised to be Google and Microsoft’s secret weapon in selling their respective smartphone operating systems to the masses.