Honor’s Zhao Ming: In the AI era, outdo yesterday’s self

By Hai Feng’s Tech Perspectives

The wave of AI is rising and shows no signs of stopping, sweeping across industries and propelling us towards an intelligent world.

For the terminal industry, this revolution has spurred the emergence of countless new forms and capabilities of end devices—it feels like since the launch of ChatGPT, “AI” has become an unavoidable buzzword at every major manufacturer’s product launch.

The recent Honor Spring Product Launch was no exception. Zhao Ming, CEO of Honor Terminal Co., Ltd., introduced a new AI-powered all-scenario strategy to the domestic market, along with the unveiling of the Honor Magic6 Ultimate Edition, Honor Magic6 RSR Porsche Design, and the AI PC Honor MagicBook Pro 16, among other intelligent devices.

Although not many products were launched, it was clearly evident throughout the presentation that AI has become a major focus for Honor and a clear declaration to the market and consumers: Honor’s AI strategy is well-defined!

Venturing into AI PCs, Honor is playing a “big game”

Honor’s ability to keep pace with the intelligent era and launch AI-enabled devices didn’t happen by chance—there’s a trackable history.

Back in 2016, with the debut of Honor Magic, Honor had already initiated a journey towards “unlocking the door to smartphone intelligence” by launching the Magic Live intelligent system and paving the way for AI in mobile operating systems. Honor was ahead of its time in embracing artificial intelligence.

Our first-generation Magic could be considered the progenitor of all AI phones, I believe no one involved in AI phones can bypass it,” stated Zhao Ming in a media interview, proudly.

Fast forward to 2022, with the MagicOS 7.0, Honor has been building a platform-level AI, further exploring intent recognition and human-computer interaction.

Clearly, AI is deeply embedded in Honor’s DNA, and the “game” of AI started long ago! At this month’s Honor notebook AI PC technology briefing, Honor disclosed that its accumulated AI R&D costs had reached 10 billion, with over 2000 AI patent achievements.

A pioneering layout paired with long-term investment culminates in Honor’s AI-enabled all-scenario strategy. During the launch, Zhao Ming elaborated on this strategy, dividing the AI in intelligent terminals into four layers: The first layer enables cross-system integration through AI, allowing different operating systems to make decisions through AI for seamless connection and data sharing among phones, tablets, PCs, and other devices;

The second layer restructures the operating system with AI, making devices more intuitive and user-friendly based on intent recognition for human-computer interaction;

The third layer focuses on applying AI on the device side, such as background removal, photo rendering, and summarizing documents; The fourth layer is the synergistic collaboration of AI from the device to the cloud, applying large-scale AI models over the internet.

With a clear framework, how will this strategy translate into product offerings that revolutionize user experience? Take the Honor MagicBook Pro 16, the first AI PC launched at this event, for example.

Firstly, in terms of cross-system integration, coupled with an AI-enabled cross-device connectivity ecosystem, the Honor MagicBook Pro 16 utilizes MagicRing for intelligent cross-device connectivity, enabling features such as dragging chat windows from phone to PC, dragging photos into PC documents, and sharing the phone’s internet with the PC.

Secondly, the platform-level AI capability of Honor OS Turbo 3.0 technology redefines user experience in terms of battery life and performance, reducing power consumption by up to 32.3% and achieving a battery life of about 12 hours.

Lastly, in the aspect of device-cloud collaboration, Honor MagicBook Pro 16 introduces unique interactive functions like AI document summarization, AI subtitle translation, and AI note-taking. Moreover, with AI intelligent search capabilities, it achieves precise content search for documents and images.

It’s evident that Honor’s capabilities in AI PCs primarily focus on the first and third layers of its AI strategy. It’s worth noting that Zhao Ming mentioned in an interview that the core of Honor’s strategy are the first two layers and the third layer. Honor will not venture into developing generic cloud-based large models, but rather, choose to collaborate with internet companies like Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba.

Through Honor’s platform-level AI capabilities, we can see a bright future where AI reshapes the terminal ecosystem. Venturing into AI PCs is undoubtedly the right path. According to the latest forecasts by research firm Canalys, the global AI PC shipment volume is expected to reach 48 million units by 2024, accounting for 18% of the PC market; by 2025, AI PC shipments are projected to surpass 100 million units, representing 40%; by 2028, AI PC shipments could exceed 200 million units, indicating a huge market potential.

However, as AI PCs are still an emerging product, device manufacturers must delve deeper into integrating AI with PCs organically. Considering the Honor MagicBook Pro 16, while AI brings new excitement, many AI capabilities are still ported from mobile applications. Figuring out how to differentiate AI PC functionalities between Honor and its competitors, as well as between phones, is a key challenge for Honor’s future endeavors.

Pushing towards premium, with confidence to resonate with the industry chain

Besides AI, another commonality in the newly launched Honor products is their “premium” positioning.

The Honor Magic6 Ultimate Edition and the Honor Magic6 RSR Porsche Design, one being the “extra-large variant” of the Magic6 series and the other being Honor’s second Porsche co-branded flagship phone, both target the high-end smartphone market.

Looking around, the smartphone market is gradually recovering. Why is Honor confident in targeting the high-end market with these two flagship phones at this time?

“Every day, we are doing the right but difficult things,” Zhao Ming explained.

Doing the “right but difficult things” refers to Honor’s commitment to investing in its own R&D. Zhao Ming revealed that Honor’s R&D spending in 2023 accounted for 11.5% of the company’s total revenue.

Moreover, understanding that “going it alone gets you there faster, but working together takes you further,” Honor focuses not only on its own R&D but also actively engages in “resonance” and collaborative innovation with global industry chains.

For instance, in the domain of imaging, the newly launched Honor Magic6 Ultimate Edition introduced leading automotive technology into mobile imaging systems for the first time, featuring an image sensor based on LOFIC lateral overflow integration capacitor technology, which increases photo electronic capacity by 900%, achieving a dynamic range of 15EV to capture the rich colors and brightness of the real world. The Honor Magic6 Ultimate Edition also incorporates a 1200-point laser radar focusing system, supporting leading 60FPS focus detection, a tri-focus scheme integrating phase and contrast focus modes, providing a DSLR-level focusing experience.

Regarding display technology, the Honor Magic6 RSR Porsche Design introduced the industry’s first Tandem dual-stack tandem OLED architecture based Honor Stack Oasis Eye Protection Screen. Compared to the single-stack structure’s single layer of RGB, the Oasis Eye Protection Screen offers two stacked layers of RGB luminescent layers, combined with the world’s first new luminescent material from BOE (K2), delivering a 50% efficiency improvement in light emission. This results in achieving the world’s highest manual peak brightness of 1000nits, an overall peak brightness of 1800nits, and a HDR peak brightness of 5000nits.

Notably, Honor established the Oasis Eye Protection Lab at the end of last year, exploring the realm of screen health in partnership with research institutions, medical organizations, standardization organizations, and screen manufacturers. The Oasis Eye Protection Screen, showcased during the launch, is a fruit of collaborative innovation between Honor and BOE. Zhao Ming reminisced, “BOE and Honor have endured ‘hellish’ trials. Someone in the industry needs to pave the way, make continuous investments, and lead. Honor is willing to be that pioneer.”

Of course, the new device incorporates more than just these “black technologies”—there’s the indomitable King Kong Giant Rhinoceros glass; Honor’s Hongyan communication with faster satellite connectivity; and the second-generation Qinghai Lake battery ensuring all-day endurance… It’s likely these innovative technologies, providing unique user experiences, enabled Honor to secure a spot just 0.2% behind Apple in the Chinese smartphone market share rankings for 2023.

Insight: The Pioneers Who “Kill” Themselves

In its third year of independence, Honor has returned to the pinnacle of the market, proving its worth with a “smile curve.”

In its fourth year, Honor continues to lead global cooperation and innovation, endlessly innovating and breaking through, injecting new vitality and momentum into the future of the industry. The path chosen by Honor involves leveraging the world’s best industrial chain resources to create products and build an open system.

Perhaps, transitioning from pioneers to leaders is Honor’s current ambition. Zhao Ming stated, “I believe for Honor, our effort is to genuinely resonate China’s industrial chain with global innovation, continuously commercialize and productize innovative technologies, push them to the market, and persistently lead.”

As for what Honor plans to do in the era of AI, Zhao Ming confidently declares: “What companies need to do is to ‘kill’ their yesterday selves.” It’s evident that with a clear strategy, Honor is set to transform and seize new opportunities in AI.

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