LCDs Get Into Shapes
By Erick Schonfeld

(Business 2.0) – Take a look at your home entertainment center. Chances are, at least half of the components were made in Taiwan. Now look at the nameplates. See any logos from Taiwanese brands? Of course not.

Yu-Chi Chiao, chairman of Asia's largest contract LCD maker, HannStar Display, wants to change that. Figuring he's leaving money on the table by allowing others to capitalize on his low-cost manufacturing capabilities, Chiao is hoping to create Taiwan's first global electronics brand--and cleverly, he's targeting a niche that lets him avoid competing with big customers like Dell and Sony. The market: novelty TVs.

The push began four years ago, when Chiao launched a quirky line of LCD televisions in Taiwan. Called Hannspree, it includes 160 different TVs brought to life by firms such as Frog Design and Ideo. This summer Chiao is exporting the brand to the United States, unveiling a website and upscale boutiques in major cities. The first store just debuted on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills; other Hannspree locations will soon open in San Francisco and New York.

Each sleek emporium will showcase sets designed to appeal to both adults and kids--models are shaped like everything from flowerpots to fire trucks--with prices ranging from $400 to $1,200. "Chiao wanted to create a product lineup different from any other LCDs," explains Michael Amkreutz, vice president for product marketing at Hannspree. He says the company plans to spend nearly $100 million to break into the U.S. market and hopes to eventually be carried by Amazon and Macy's. Already, Hannspree has inked one distribution deal with Disney and another with Major League Baseball, which will peddle leather baseballshaped TVs with red stitching through its website and retail stores. It may be America's pastime, but the name, finally, will be Taiwanese. -- ERICK SCHONFELD