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How Belkin and smart toilets will help Foxconn be less dependent on Apple

Being overly dependent on Apple orders can be dangerous to the health of a business. Ask Imagination Tech or Dialog. Which is why iPhone assembler Foxconn is seeking to diversify its business.

In a new interview, Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, outlined some of the company’s plans – and how it has to be careful not to be seen to be competing with Apple …

Woo told Reuters that there were some obvious new directions for the company.

The company is also betting that it can package its traditional expertise to sell “smart manufacturing” services, included fully automated factories, to other industrial companies […]

“We have built data centers for many of our customers, but we’re not known to provide data center services,” Woo said. “In the future since we’re having all these pieces, we can put them together to provide […] integrated solutions” for businesses that include both sophisticated hardware and software services such as cloud computing.

But the company is also seeking to sell electronics products direct to consumers. Analysts think it won’t do this under its own branding, but instead seek to acquire established brands.

Trendforce says Foxconn could do more deals to acquire established brands. “It will use whatever branding there is already,” he said, rather than try to build a Foxconn brand. The company earlier this year added to its brand portfolio with the acquisition of Belkin, a well-known U.S. maker of computer accessories.

Some of the company’s plans are … less obvious. Such as smart toilets.

Gou has also touted the possibility of smart toilets that can double as health diagnostic devices, Woo said, with sensors feeding data to the cloud for analysis.

Some observers have suggested that Foxconn could emulate Xiaomi, by selling both phones and services through its own stores. But analysts have warned of the risks of being seen to compete with its biggest customer.

It has to be careful to keep current customers onside, in particular Apple – which is estimated to still generate around half of Foxconn’s total revenue.

“There will definitely be risks,” in pursuing so many different areas, said Boyce Fan, an analyst at Trendforce.

Woo said Foxconn was very conscious of this.

We’re still looking at how to go about doing that without any direct conflict with our current customers.

The company is currently working on a US-based display plant, but a recent report suggested it was scaling back on what was initially set to be a $10B investment.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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