Acer: We Are Aggressive About Touch

Max ‘Beast from the East’ Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope.

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Acer’s Jerry Kao talks to TechWeekEurope about the future of touchscreen

On Tuesday morning, Taiwanese electronics giant Acer invited TechWeekEurope to a “tactile” event at the Science Museum to see its new touchscreen devices in action alongside touch-inspired digital art installations.

Following the touchscreen-friendly Windows 8 launch last week, participants were able to test 11 products that are being released in the run up to Christmas.

At the event, TechWeekEurope was able to have a chat with Jerry Kao, Acer’s associate vice president of consumer business unit. According to Kao, we are entering an age when the convenience and quality of the “tactile experience” is more important than the speed of CPU or the amount of RAM. He also suggested that soon, tablets and laptops will merge into a single, post-PC entity.

Science of touch

“Windows 8 is a great opportunity for us, because it makes the world a more touch-friendly place. Acer understands this, and we want to be the first to bring this capability to the market. So we are very aggressive in terms of touch product promotion,” said Kao.

Acer showed off 11 touch-enabled computers and three monitors – a huge offering from a company that has recently gone through strategic restructuring. “We have a range of All-in-One PCs, Iconia tablets, notebooks in various form-factors – the entry V series, and the flagship S series. In terms of product offering, we are already the most aggressive company,” explained Kao.

“In addition to a wide product portfolio, our touch experience is much smoother and much more responsive that that of the competitors. Today, the focus has shifted away from the demand for faster CPU and more RAM. The new battlefield is the touchscreen technology – how smooth and precise it is, how enjoyable the touch effect is. We have invested a lot of time and money into this technology, to stay ahead of the competition.”

You might think that’s just marketing speak, but after testing several devices on offer, we can confirm that Acer has really put a lot of work in its touch-enabled displays. The sensitivity and accuracy of the Iconia W700, launched this month, is surprising for a device that costs just £599 and the top-of the line Aspire S7 works perfectly with Windows 8.

“The reason we offer so many products is simple: our customers want different things. For example, with S7, our surveys have shown that most of our female customers want an 11.6-inch laptop, while men want 13-inch. So we offer both. There’s a lot of conflicting feedback like this. Unfortunately we have certain resource limitations, otherwise we would offer even more different devices.”

The new Acer 

A few words have to be said about the design of the new products. After restructuring, Acer has been positioning itself as a marketing-oriented company, while at the same time promising to invest more into product research and development. They are a far cry from Acer’s utilitarian laptops of the past, the upcoming devices are beautifully made, with materials and craftsmanship that has previously been the domain of brands like Sony and Apple.

As far as the PC market is concerned, it is obvious that Acer has no illusions about the death of the format. “If we talk about the traditional PC definition, the situation is definitely going to get worse. The world wants the wireless PC. A tablet or an ultrabook, with keyboard or without,” told us Kao.

“We want the user to enjoy the technology, no matter that kind of product it is. We don’t care much about how Acer is ranking in the PC sales charts, we just want to make a better product,” he added.

Kao believes that at the moment it is still important to choose your device according to the way it will be used, but he believes that in time, tablets and ultrabooks will merge into a single entity. “There will be a lot of customers who have to choose between these two types of products. Tablets are more touch-oriented, laptops are better for people who type a lot. But our solution is offering tablet with a keyboard and the touchscreen in an ultrabook. In time, the difference will disappear.”

The current Acer philosophy states that offering optional detachable keyboards with tablets is the way to go. Not only does it make devices more versatile, it also helps extend the battery life. For example, the slim keyboard attachment for Iconia W510 can make the tablet work twice as long.

Finally, we asked Kao about the company’s environmental record. After all, most of the devices presented at the Science Museum contain no polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC) or brominated flame retardants (BFRs), and Acer has been known to avoid conflict minerals.

“Acer is in transition. We are fighting for our market share. What the end-user thinks of the company will have a definite impact on what they buy. And being “green” is definitely an extremely important factor. We are not just focused on cost, we want to make sure that we are a presence in the industry. So environmental responsibility is something we want to do,” said Kao.

“The world is changing, so we need to do what our end-user wants,” he added.

Below, you can see the brand new Acer advert starring Megan Fox and some very clever dolphins:

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