It seems the billion-dollar battle over the mobile market has claimed another victim today, as Asus announced that longtime CEO Jerry Shen will be stepping down in advance of an upcoming corporate restructuring.
Effective January 1, 2019, Shen will be replaced by Asus’ current PC business head S.Y. Hsu and global customer service leader Samsung Hu, who will serve as the company’s new co-CEOs.
During his time at Asus (including 11 years spent as CEO), Shen was responsible for a number of big-time hits such as the original Eee PC, which launched an entire generation of low-power, low-cost netbooks in the mid 2000's, along with Asus staples like its ZenBook and Transformer series machines. Shen also oversaw the creation of some innovative (though ultimately flawed) devices like the Asus PhonePad which featured a regular-sized handset that could be docked with a tablet-sized shell.
But the real issue for Asus it seems was its struggling phone business, because of which the company wrote off a 6 billion NT (about $160 million) loss recently related to “loss of inventory.” In certain markets like India, the ZenFone series was largely a success, while in other markets like the U.S., the ZenFone is essentially an unknown brand with previous devices like the ZenFone 2 serving as collateral damage as the result of Intel’s failed pushed to get into the mobile chip market.
While Asus has clarified that the ZenFone line won’t be going away entirely, it seems the company’s new plan is to refocus the ZenFone line to appeal to mobile gamers and mobile power users, which sounds similar to what we’ve seen on Asus’ ROG Phone.
And while a lot of people—especially in the west where mobile gaming hasn’t taken off at the same rate is has in Asia—may have dubious feelings about whether gaming phones even need to exist, with the relative newness of the entire category, it could give Asus a stronger identity when it comes to phones, while also introducing more people to Asus’ larger catalog of ROG-branded desktops, laptops, and accessories.