Creative CEO hits out at sound card doomsayers

An ebullient Sim Wong Hoo, chairman and CEO of Creative Technology Ltd, took the stage for close to an hour in Singapore yesterday, blasting critics who have predicted that new chipmaking trends would spell doom for the firm's flagship product, its Sound Blaster range of sound cards.

SINGAPORE--An ebullient Sim Wong Hoo, chairman and CEO of Creative Technology Ltd, took the stage for close to an hour in Singapore yesterday, blasting critics who have predicted that new chipmaking trends would spell doom for the firm's flagship product, its Sound Blaster range of sound cards.

"I will make a bet with anyone here...in 10 years, Sound Blaster will still be around," he told assembled reporters.

Speaking at the launch of its new premium range of sound cards, the Sound Blaster Audigy series, Sim said that Creative has thrived in the face of moves by chipmakers, including Intel, to embed audio into cheaper chipsets or the PC's main processor.

"The competitor, an 8,000-pound gorilla which I won't mention by name, has been giving away 'audio for free'," he said. Although he did not mention the company by name, industry watchers were inclined to believe that Sim was referring to Intel.

But this strategy seems to have backfired. Instead, this "giant" did his firm a favour by mopping up smaller competitors which sell cheaper brands, leaving Creative with more room to maneuver, he said.

With around 170 million sounds cards sold, Sound Blasters are the market leader by a wide margin, and has valuable assets in its brand and intellectual property, Sim claimed.

His aggressive stance comes at a low point in the company's fortunes--a higher-than-expected net loss of US$130.4 million, including a US$148.5 million write-down on its investments in technology companies, for the year ended June 2001, in addition to management pay cuts of between 10 percent and 20 percent.

Creative is banking on its latest range of sound cards--which incorporates its new Audigy chip--to revive the company. The product is the company's first major audio processor upgrade since the launch of the Live! series three years ago.

Promising more powerful digital music and gaming functions, the Audigy series will replace the Live! series as the firm's flagship sound card. The Live! range will be repositioned as a mainstream offering, Creative said.

Available immediately, the Sound Blaster Audigy Platinum eX will enter as the most expensive sound card ever sold by Creative at a price of US$249.99 (S$469). It features an external module that sits on the user's desk, the first such device from Creative, allowing easy access to sound connectors and controls.

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