Acer To Follow Asus With ‘Ultrabook’ Launch


Acer President Jim Wong said the company plans to release an “ultrabook” this year

Acer looks to be the second PC maker to sign onto Intel’s “ultrabook” vision, which was unveiled at the Computex 2011 show on 31 May.

Acer President Jim Wong reportedly said in a statement from the show on 1 June that “the ultrabook can help revive the notebook market,” which continues to see solid growth in the commercial space but is suffering from slower consumer sales due to several factors, including the rise of tablets and last year’s release of Microsoft’s Windows 7 OS.

Wong, recently appointed president after Gianfranco Lanci resigned as president and CEO in March following a dispute with the company’s board of directors, did not give any details about the Acer ultrabook, though he did reiterate his focus on the mobile-device market, including tablets and smartphones.

Notebook crossed with tablet

Intel Executive Vice President Sean Maloney during his keynote introduced the company’s vision of the ultrabook, which he described as an Intel-powered ultra-thin notebook with tablet-like features, including responsiveness. An Intel spokesperson said touch-screen capabilities likely would come later.

Maloney described an ultrabook as a system less than 20mm thick and costing less than $1,000 (£610). Intel executives see a rapid adoption of the form factor, with ultrabooks accounting for 40 percent of the notebook market by the end of 2012.

The first of the ultrabooks — including Acer’s and rival Asus’ UX21, which Chairman Jonney Shih brought on stage with Maloney — are expected to arrive in time for the holiday shopping season and be powered by Intel’s newest Core processors.

In a statement, Shih said that Asus’ “customers are demanding an uncompromised computing experience in a lightweight, highly portable design that responds quickly to their needs. Transforming the PC into an ultra-thin, ultra-responsive device will change the way people interact with their PC.”

PC sales in decline

PC sales have slipped in recent quarters, particularly on the consumer side. Research firm IHS iSuppli said May 24 that worldwide PC sales slipped 0.3 percent in the first quarter, a quarter after hitting record sales. Analysts are debating the cause of the slippage, with several pointing to the rapid growth of tablets since Apple introduced the iPad last year. Others have said that after the buying spree following the release last year of Windows 7, consumers are in no hurry to spend more money on PCs.

The drop has hit such vendors as Acer and Hewlett-Packard hard. Dell also saw consumer PC sales wane, though much of that was offset by its strength in the commercial space. Acer over the past several quarters has been challenging Dell for the second spot among worldwide PC vendors behind HP, and was helped two years ago when netbooks were popular.

However, it was slow to respond to tablets, an issue that played a role in Lanci’s resignation. Wong reportedly has shifted more of the company’s efforts behind mobile computing, with expectations that tablets and smartphones will account for 15 percent of its revenue in 2013 and a third by 2015.

However, Acer’s struggles do not mean the company expects to move away from the PC as the centerpiece of its efforts.

“The personal computer remains the core of our business,” J.T. Wang, the company’s chairman and acting CEO, said at the time of Lanci’s resignation. “We have built up a strong foundation and will continue to expand within, especially in the commercial PC segment. In addition, we are stepping into the new mobile-device market, where we will invest cautiously and aim to become one of the leading players.”

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