Interview: Alex Mei / OCZ

Interview: Alex Mei / OCZ

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Q&A

Q: Do you consider yourself a hardware enthusiast or are you more of a businessman?
Alex: I’ve always been a tech geek, and got into the motherboard business in the first place simply because I loved building and tweaking P’s. I can honestly say that over time I have become much more of a gamer than anything else. While I absolutely love the technology, I am spending more and more of my time doing “business” in my current role, but I always make sure to find time to pause to get my enthusiast fix, most recently building a new 790i SLI rig just so that I could better enjoy Crysis and COD4.

Q: Were you selling computers while you were in college?
Alex: My family was in the computer business at this time, and I was able to leverage this to form direct relationships with three motherboard manufacturers as well as two distributors. I actually built PCs for customers for a period, but this was short lived as service and support became an issue when I was balancing business and school.

Q: OCZ started out just manufacturing memory, then got into power supplies and now does a whole array of products like flash memory and video cards. Which came first, expanding your product range so that you were big enough to go public, or the decision to go public so you expanded on your product range?
Alex: While most consumers know OCZ as a memory manufacturer the company was previously a heatsink and video card manufacturer before I joined. During my time here we evaluated a number of areas that we believe we could innovate and add value, and followed up with many diverse introductions, but we always stayed focused on high-end solutions.
The expansion into new product categories came first. In fact we had already launched both power supplies and flash prior to the IPO. Going public helped provide fuel for growth as well as the ability to make acquisitions of quality companies like PC Power & Cooling to increase our total offering as well as to further provide enthusiasts and gaming solutions to our customers worldwide.

Q: What ever happened to the Hydrojet? I think consumers like the idea of a self contained water cooling system for the CPU. It is much easier than running tube. Is the project on hold or discontinued?
Alex: We demonstrate a lot of our technology at events, and unfortunately not all of it will make it to final mass production as we want to be 100% sure that the product we release to market delivers superior performance and value to consumers. I can say that while you won’t see the Hydrojet, at least in the form of our earlier prototypes, we are continuing to develop and refine our enthusiast coolers including self contained water cooling solutions and water blocks.

Q: DIY laptops seem to be gaining steam these days. What do you think has fueled this consumer demand?
Alex: I think there are a few things that have really fueled demand for DIY notebooks. First consumers have been building desktops for years and yet it actually takes a much shorter time to configure a notebook than it does for the average PC, consumers just have not had the proper tools to enable them to configure and build a notebook. Next I think that technology has really caught up when it comes to notebooks. It is one thing to be able to build a machine for productivity applications, but being able to build a gaming laptop opens the product up to a much wider audience. Finally consumers want to be able to upgrade their notebooks over time, prolonging the use to the base product. Expandability coupled with the freedom to configure a notebook with the exact components you want help make DIY notebooks an exciting new category, one that I hope more component manufacturers will get behind.

Q: The Neural Impulse Actuator is a cool new product with a lot of potential for future development. How did this idea come about?
Alex: The NIA is a unique gaming product, and certainly just the first of what we hope to be more new and exciting peripherals. Our CEO Ryan Petersen and our VP of Technology Dr. Michael Schuette both helped conceive and develop the NIA along with Brainfingers Technology. The goal with the NIA is not much unlike our other products; we saw an opportunity to create something exciting for gamers and enthusiasts. The NIA is not designed to replace a traditional keyboard or a mouse. It is designed to further immerse consumers in the gaming experience.

Q: Is OCZ working on other bio-devices like the NIA?
Alex: We have a few other ideas on the table but in terms of implementation resources we are focused currently on keeping up with the NIA demand by improving our manufacturing process, as well as making enhancements to future versions. Our emphasis on future NIA versions really goes hand in hand with gaming, and as more new and exciting titles become released we want the NIA to offer gamers another way for them to experience the gameplay.

Q: Do you think that one day OCZ will go beyond just manufacturing computer components?
Alex: It is absolutely possible. Because we are so consumer driven we always come across ideas and opportunities that are outside the realm of traditional computer components. While I can’t divulge anything in detail I can say that we have been working on a number of CE (consumer electronics) type products.
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