Acer: Alive, and thirsty for Apple juice
Lanci levels lance at iTunes
Analysis Bought an Acer lately? Chances are you were looking for a modern, well-designed notebook/netbook/desktop/whatever and found that Acer does a good job at a decent price. What you were not doing was buying into the "Acer Lifestyle". Acer Plc is not Apple Inc.
But now Acer has pretentions to that end. Number two behind HP in the worldwide computer market, Acer gathered together journalists across the globe in New York this week to announce two major new departures from its traditional role as an IT hardware provider. It has decided that the Tablet business is part of its future (like Apple), and will become a content aggregator by setting up an online store, called Alive, that bears a striking similarity to Cupertino's iTunes Store.
GianFranco Lanci, CEO and President of the company, acquired by Acer from TI when it took over TI's notebook division in 1997, has in thirteen years honed the company into a lean machine making record profits across EMEA. The remarkable financial figures don't tell the whole story, though - on Lanci's watch Acer has also been able to differentiate itself with some considerable design flair, and the way it has embraced new technological opportunities such as extended battery life has been more than a mere textbook exercise.
Would it be a huge stretch to imagine Acer following a similar path to Apple? Certainly when Lanci hymns the opportunities of "Digital Convergence" at an event whose theme is summed up with the single word "Interact", there seems to be a turtle-neck and jeans-wearing Steve Jobs struggling to emerge from the paunchy, balding corporate suit addressing us from the podium.
But unlike Jobs, who often seems to be playing only to the discerning elite in the posh seats, Lanci is ready to bellow his message to the world. "There are already more than two billion users worldwide assessing the Internet," he told the journalists assembled in New York on Tuesday. "But [in terms of the total world population] this is only 30 per cent penetration. I think we will see in the next three years another 500 to 600 million new Internet users. And more than two thirds of these will be mobile users."
Lanci intends Acer to be ready for them, with a range of five inch, seven inch and 10 inch tablet devices promised for early next year. "We're used to the PC having a couple of different form-factors," he said. "I think we will see in the future a variety of form-factor devices, satisfying different needs. It's going to be a very exciting world. And this is the world where we want to play."
In a declaration of independence from Wintel he promises "different operating systems - not only one operating system," running on a range of different processors, including Qualcomm and the nVidia Tegra system-on-a-chip.
But his vision of new form factors extends beyond the tablet. On demonstration at the event was a portable device the size and heft of a 14-inch laptop that Acer calls the Iconia. Strongly reminiscent of the much smaller Libretto W100 shown to the press by Toshiba earlier this year (or the even smaller Nintendo DS), the device replaces the traditional keyboard with a second multi-touch 14 inch screen, which optionally does duty as a virtual keyboard and media control panel.
Technically the Iconia is a marvel. But its hulking notebook form-factor and the necessarily limited life of a battery yoked to a pair of hungry back-lit screens make it hard to see how it might fit into Acer's game plan - or indeed into any punter's idea of a grand and a half's worth of IT value. If you want a clamshell keyboard-sized device you expect a keyboard, and if you don't want a keyboard you'll settle for a tablet.
The Acer lifestyle. Really?
"Our hardware lasts one year, then the fans crap out and it dies." Alternately: "We ship you the shittiest possible power units which short out and take your notebook with you." How about "Acer: the lowest quality components humanly possible. So bad that we actually ship gear that in 2010 still dies of bad capacitors three months after purchase."
Acer lifestyle: buy cheap shit for a low price, throw it away after not much use or abuse and buy more cheap shit at a cheap price.
Over my decaying corpse will anyone I know ever buy anything from Acer. Freaking /DELL/ is a better bet than Acer.
Good luck trying to make a “lifestyle” play, Acer. Your shit stinks way too bad for anyone – even those with kool-aid lobotomies – to fall for that crap.
My apologies to the good readers of El Reg for the foul language and the biased company attack. I acknowledge that it may be considered rude and/or out of place. I can only offer as an excuse having frittered away tens of thousands on this company before I realised how crap it was and the anecdotal evidence of over 60% of all systems crossing my bench for [dead X] being Acers. It is enough to strongly bias me against this company’s quality of manufacture.
Given even new equipment shipped by Acer is exhibiting the same terrible low quality as I have seen through the aughties, I feel that while my outburst is probably rude…it is not incorrect. I do welcome any refutation from individuals who have had to deal with a large number of Acer products in the past few years; I would deeply love to be wrong about this company. They provide low cost hardware and it would be nice to be able to believe that either there are some models in their stable which aren’t utter pants and/or that the company has decided on a sea change which will result in my not having to bang my head against the terrible hardware flaws I see from them every single day.
In order to build a following for your gear, you have to at least start with halfway decent gear.* Apple have a cult following not only because of the reality distortion field…but because their failure rates are actually remarkably low. (Though I personally do think Apple could stand to do better on the support for those items that do fail.) Lenovo business class notebooks have a nearly as strong cult following…they are just less noisy.
Some things – such as toughbooks – are simply the only real contenders. Their cult followings come from being the only real alternative to play in a given space. Alternately, you can do it by going the “build a different UI/app loadout route” – a la sense UI – but that’s a much harder road. (Ask HTC.)
I just don’t think Acer have a payer here. The only thing Acer ever had going for them was the ability to fool those who were never taught concepts like “false economy.”
*To the curious…I have had very good luck with non-bottom-of-the-barrel Dell gear. A 50/50 hit-or-miss with ASUS, HP and Panasonic. (The levels of failure might be due to volume; most systems I have deployed at the moment are ASUS. Though I have recently cut them from my accepted vendor list for piss poor support.)
I have yet to meet a Sun, Toshiba or Fujitsu that have given me problems, but in all fairness I don’t see many of them. Lenovo seems to crank out the reliable notebooks…but they don’t have much in the way of specs. Currently the only companies I have yet to see any returns for are HTC and Supermicro; both of which I have only recently started to use extensively.
While I have purchased half a dozen Acer's over the years
it's a fair bet that the last thing I want them to be is part of a 'lifestyle'
Step one when purchasing *any* computer? Rip off all the vendor supplied software. It's not rocket science.
The big problem for Acer, like Dell or HP or Sony is that whatever they do .. they sell Windows PCs.
Nothing against Windows but they are all attempting to differentiate themselves from other vendors of essentially the same thing. (The same is happening in Android handsets and Windows Phone7)
And they are also reliant on Microsoft to provide the developments in the OS whereas Apple, being both software and hardware OEM in their own right have total control and by its very definition are different!
DRM free video
I thought that was known as The Pirate Bay...
I was with them until...
I was with them until discovering it will only run on Acer hardware? Really? As the article said, at least iTunes content will run on windows and mac devices.
I don't think anyone is going to knock iTunes off its perch until someone badgers the content providers into allowing DRM free video. Until then, I'll stick to the vendor that makes the DRM work as seamlessly as possible, and right now, that's Apple.