The idea of a virtual keyboard that can be replaced at the sweep of a single user-programmable gesture by a straightforward second screen, or a device control console or pretty well anything else that will fit into 14 inches of LCD real estate sounds appealing - until you try it. With no haptic feedback the virtual keyboard is a dead thing beneath your fingers, and if you're any kind of a typist you'll quickly pine for the feel of real travelling keys.
I'm betting that the Iconia won't find a market, but its fate is a diversion from the real message emerging from this New York event. While others in the IT and media business are loudly asserting that Content is King, Acer, the hardware manufacturer, has discovered the ultimate truth: that the user wants to become King of Content.
Says Lanci: "Users want to control the flow of the media. They don't want to be told what to do." With an evident dig at Apple he goes on: "And we see companies in this industry with a tendency to tell people what they need to do, rather than helping people to do what they want to do."
Lanci's Law is: "People want the media they want, when they want it and where they want it." This democratic spirit, he told the 100 or so assembled journalists from around the world, is the principle behind the new Alive store. Democratic, that is, as long as the punter votes Acer.
Lanci sees the Alive store as a natural extension of Acer's "Clear.fi" strategy, a content-sharing system based on DLNA intended to guarantee that any digital content stored on an Acer device can be shared seamlessly with the other Acer devices through a common media interface. Because of its DLNA underpinnings, media on compliant devices from other manufacturers can also join in, although without the convenience of the Clear.fi interface.
The Alive store - a melange of music, videos, news, ebooks and casual games - dares to take this exclusivity a step further. The store will only be available through a client application; the client application will only run on Acer devices.
It's a strategy that may rebound on Acer, or one that Acer will quickly have to abandon. Apple customers buy into Apple; Acer customers merely buy Acer. And while Apple's "closed shop" philosophy operates mostly within the Mac/iPhone/iPad ecosystem, the iTunes client at least runs cross-platform, offering all Windows users a welcoming bridge over to the Apple world.
Acer seems to have no such plans for Alive. And in its first incarnation, available here in the UK shortly before Christmas, the store won't even accommodate the whole Acer range. Machines older than a few years, it emerged after close questioning, won't be supported. And the newer non-Windows devices are similarly excluded from this first wave, although a cross-platform implementation is promised for early next year.
Clearly Acer has taken a deep breath and is readying itself for a sporting run at the new opportunities. Lanci, less inspirational as a presenter than Apple's Steve Jobs, is nonetheless a smart operator, and I suppose it is just about on the cards that he may manage to upgrade the brand from great-for-the-price to lifestyle choice. But I hope he has a Plan B. ®
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!