Acer holds off on touch for Windows 8 business ultrabooks

Acer holds off on touch for Windows 8 business ultrabooks

Summary: President Jim Wong tells ZDNet that Acer won't release a touch-enabled business ultrabook until late 2013, as he explains where a potential Windows RT tablet and AcerCloud fit into its SME plans.

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Acer does not plan to bring out a touch-enabled business ultrabook until the second half of 2013, company president Jim Wong has said.

Acer president Jim Wong
Acer president Jim Wong. Image credit: David Meyer

Speaking at IFA in Berlin on Saturday, Wong said business users tend to hold off buying into a new version of Windows until application compatibility has had a chance to be established. Windows 8, due for release in October, is the first version of the operating system to be properly designed around touch and underpins all the latest ultrabook models.

"The consumer market is moving faster than the commercial market," Wong told ZDNet. "In commercial [ultrabooks] there will be no touch until the second half of next year. Commercial markets are always considering application [compatibility]."

Acer's business-oriented notebooks go under the TravelMate banner, and tend to be a bit tougher than their consumer counterparts, with added security.

However, Wong suggested that mobile professionals who did want a touch-capable Acer ultrabook would be reasonably served by its S7 models, which were unveiled at IFA.

"We believe [the S7] is very suitable for both consumers and commercial users," Wong said.

Windows RT

The touch-capable ultrabooks shown at IFA, including those from Acer, use the standard x86 version of Windows 8. The other version is the more tablet-focused Windows RT, which is designed to run on ARM's architecture.

"We need to have a much better discussion in making sure we are competitive" — Jim Wong, Acer

Acer has not yet announced a Windows RT tablet, and it caused quite a storm last month by criticising Microsoft for releasing its own RT tablet, the Surface. Acer chief JT Wang said Microsoft risked alienating its partners by doing so.

Wong reiterated on Saturday that the company did still have plans to produce a Windows RT tablet.

"We mainly mentioned two things: that we had concerns and that we continue our dialogue with Microsoft," Wong said. "We don't know exactly the plan of Microsoft, [but] Microsoft and the Windows environment is so important to our own ecosystem."

"We need to have a much better discussion in making sure we are competitive," he added.

Pricing

One detail missing from all the Windows 8 ultrabook and hybrid announcements at IFA has been that of price. Even Microsoft has yet to reveal the pricing of the Surface.

This is a particularly important issue with Windows 8. Many of the devices running the heavily redesigned and as-yet-unproven operating system will be competing against entrenched rival platforms — Android and iOS — in a way that was not the case in the pre-tablet era.

According to Wong, the current reticence is a result of seasonality.

"Now is the very end of the back-to-school cycle," Wong said. "Do you want to talk about it now, hurting your back-to-school business, or wait a bit?"

Cloud strategy

Acer's current strategy is very much built around the cloud. While rivals such as Samsung and Sony are offering broad device ecosystems in which tablets and PCs can easily talk to TVs and Hi-Fis, Acer — more of a computing specialist — is hoping buyers will be attracted to the cloud capabilities it acquired when it bought iGware last year.

The resulting AcerCloud lets users upload as much data as they like, but it only stores it for 30 days: this is intended to ease the sharing of data between different Acer devices, rather than to provide long-term storage.

According to Wong, this makes AcerCloud a primarily consumer play.

"For SMEs and corporates it's very different," he said. "Our cloud focus for the next three years is on consumers. [For business users] we are working with VARs and qualified channels, and we already have a very good service network."

Topics: Windows, Cloud, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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14 comments
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  • Acer is wasting money with aCer Cloud for consumers

    If Acer is targeting Acer cloud for consumers, they are wasting money. Their core products are based on Windows and their side business is android tablets. Both these platforms come with its own cloud services which will serve most of the consumer needs.
    owllnet
    • Well why don't you get on their board of directors

      And tell them all that, 'o noble sage.

      I'm sure they'll appreciate how 'wise' you are.

      lol...
      Cylon Centurion
  • Any company betting on he cloud

    Has a fool running the show.

    It sounds to me as if Acer just doesn't know what to do or which way to go. Hey, remaining flexible is a good thing but at some point you have to make the decision to get in or get out. Acer obviously hasn't gotten to that point yet. Either that or the bitter pill of buying an OS from the competition is more than they can swallow.
    NoAxToGrind
    • Which way?

      There probably is a fair amount of confusion there. They bloodied their own nose pretty badly trying to compete with the iPad. The CEO got canned and they got a new one. Plus they suffered some "accounting irregularities" that probably mean that a whole bunch of people whose names we'll never know got fired.
      Robert Hahn
  • Fair choice

    Manufacturers have two easy choices; to state it bluntly: s**t or get off the pot. Acer is the first one to actually make the latter choice, see how the chips fall, how the pricing settles, how the market reception is and (crucially) which of the myriad of form factors and designs turns out to work best.

    Then Acer can hit the market in a way they do best, by undercutting everyone else on price.

    It's a fair business choice.
    Han CNX
  • Windows 8 as a OS that is a "Jack of all Trades and a MASTER of None"

    END OF STORY
    Over and Out
    • iYawn

      Troll elsewhere.
      Hallowed are the Ori
    • So true

      Cylon Centurion
    • Comes from

      ...someone WHO never actually used it... /takes popcorn
      AmediaN
      • I used it

        I actually have a Micro$oft store nearby so it's quite easy to fool around with one of their demos. Saves me the trouble of putting it on my own machine and wiping a drive or a USB stick.
        Cylon Centurion
    • Which is pretty much

      What 90% (guess only) of end users want. So if your right Windows 8 will do well.
      martin_js
  • Reading between the lines...

    It's pretty obvious Acer expect business to use downgrade rights to install Windows 7 (or even XP) on to their business laptops, neither of which need touch.
    bradavon
    • Yep

      ...and they will not have arrived at that conclusion by gazing into a crystal ball. They did it by calling up their big customers and asking, "What's the earliest you guys think you might do a quantity purchase agreement for touchscreen laptops?"
      Robert Hahn
  • 2% Net Profit Margins

    Both Acer and Lenovo reported less than 2% net profit in their last quarerly reports. Compare this to HTC at 8%, and Samsung probably doing even better, and it should be clear: mobile is highly profitable, the PC business is not.

    This is why Intel and Microsoft are taking more and more control over what PC products they do and don’t want to see (Ultrbooks, Surface etc): because the PC vendors themselves are no longer in a position to take such risks.
    ldo17