Sometimes it can be difficult sifting through the speculation and figuring out what's real and what's not, so we're always pleased as punch when a company bigwig spills the beans on an upcoming project. During a recent interview with Bloomberg, Jim Wong, senior corporate vice president and president of IT product business group at Acer, did just that by confirming earlier reports of an impending Chrome OS netbook.
And not just one notebook, but one million of the them. That's how many Chrome-based laptops Acer will try to ship in 2010, which would account for about 7-8 percent of all notebooks the company plans to ship, Wong said.
According to Wong, Acer will begin shipping Chrome-based notebooks in the third quarter, but he stopped short of offering up any other details, such as what kind of CPU will be used.
The third quarter's shaping up to be a big one for Acer. In addition to the upcoming Chrome laptops, Wong said the company will also release its e-book reader in Asia and Europe, coinciding with the launch of Acer's upcoming app store.
According to a Bloomberg report, Acer will try to boost its profitability to the highest it's been since 2004 by tossing its hat into the online app store biz, which will coincide with the launch of its first e-book reader later this year.
Acer's Jim Wong, president of IT Products division, said the app store will contain hundreds of downloads, "otherwise you can't call it an app store." In other words, the company doesn't plan to go at it half-cocked, and is instead serious about trying to (eventually) take on the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Google.
"If they can find a way to sell applications, then the margins can be very lucrative," said Vincent Chen, an analyst with Yuanta Financial Holding Co. in Taipei.
Acer's app store is expected to go live by the middle of the year and include software to support Google's Android platform, which the company currently installs on some of its netbooks and smartphones. It will also offer up support for Windows and Windows Mobile systems, with Chrome OS software to be added sometime down the line, Wong said.
Acer certainly talks the talk, and the problem for its competitors is that, for the most part, the company also walks the walk. Take note HP, because Acer's gunning for your top spot in the global PC market, a place the company thinks it will reach by 2012.
Or so says Acer's outspoken Chairman Wang Jeng-tang and President Gianfranco Lanci. In fact, it seems like everyone over at Acer likes to beat their chest, as evidenced by the company's founder earlier this week saying that US-brand PCs will be extinct in 20 years, "just like what happened to US television brands."
HP is one of those US brands, and also happens to be the largest maker of PCs on the planet with a 19.3 percent share. Acer, who jumped ahead of Dell not that long ago for the No. 2 spot, holds 13 percent of the global PC market, and it's not unrealistic that Acer would become the top dog in two years.
This will especially be true if the notebook market continues to grow, which is a sector where Acer thrives. The company said it shipped about 33-34 million notebooks last year, and thinks it it will ship 40 million in 2010.
Those of you sporting a PC made in the the good ol' U.S. of A. may want to take note - two decades from now, you'll have no choice but to buy a foreign-made computer. Why? Because according to Acer founder Stan Shih, U.S. computer brands are on their way out.
"The trend for low-priced computers will last for the coming years," said Shih. "But US computer makers just don't know how to put such products on the market... US computer brands may disappear over the next 20 years, just like what happened to US television brands."
Acer's been on a roll the past year, nudging ahead of US-based Dell in a photo-finish as the world's second-largest computer vendor, and should Acer continue to fly high, it could pass HP, another US computer maker, for the top spot by 2011.
Both Acer and Dell (under the Alienware brand) showed off new 23" 120Hz LCD panels that are compatible with Nvidia's 3D Vision. We got to try both of these monitors out at their respective meeting suites. Previously, the largest 3D Vision capable monitor you could buy was a 1680x1050 22" Samsung display, which forced you to choose between gaming in 3D and full HD. But both Acer and Dell's monitors run at 1080p, making paying a premium to adopt 3D Vision a bit easier to stomach.
But there's still one limiting factor neither of these makers have addressed with these monitors.
Acer Timeline owners can't seem to catch a break. Back in October 2009, Acer recalled a whole bunch of its 13-inch models citing an overheating hazard, and once again, the exact same problem has forced Acer to issue another recall, this time for about 22,000 Timelines.
According ot the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the problem stems from an internal microphone wire under the palm rest. Just like the last recall, the pesky wire is prone to short circuiting, overheating, and poses a potential burn hazard. There have been no reports of injuries thus far, but three reports of computers short circuiting, each of which resulted in "slight melting" of the notebook chassis.
Models affected include the Acer AS3410, AS3410T, AS3810T, AS3810TG, AS3810TZ, and AS3810TZG. The CPSC says that not all of these models suffer from the cable flaw, and that if you own one, you should contact Acer for more info.
As netbooks go, this new Aspire One isn’t all that different from its predecessors, save for it sporting an Intel Atom N450 CPU, GMA 1350 graphics, and a promised 10-hours of battery life. The N450 has a speed of 1.66 GHz, with a 512 KB L2 cache, and a 667 MHz front-side bus. The integrated GMA 3150 will power a 10.1-inch WSVGA “CrystalBrite” backlit LED display, which Acer says uses 22.2 percent less power than a regular LCD.
Rounding out the features are the usual: 1Gb of DDR2 667 MHz memory (no word on expandability), a 160 GB SATA hard drive running at 5400 RPM, a digital media card reader, three USB 2.0 ports, 802.11b/g/draft-n WiFi, 10/100 fast ethernet, a webcam, and stereo speakers. Mobile power is from a 6-cell Li-ion (4400 mAh) battery. Windows 7 Starter is the operating system of choice.
The 2.76 pound, 1-inch thick netbook will be available in Onyx Blue, Garnet Red, and Silver Matrix.
Hoping to build on the increasing popularity of ultra-thin laptops in the home consumer sector, notebook vendors have started targeting businesses, sources from notebook players say.
The reason? Ultra-thins are better suited for businesses. Whereas home users put more demands on multimedia playback and gaming support, the real advantages to owning an ultra-thin are longer battery life and portability, both of which happen to be very important to the average business user.
And it's not just Lenovo and Dell that are taking notice. Sources say Acer, Asus, and MSI all are looking to transition from home to work. As a result, global ultra-thin notebook shipments are expected to increase from around six million units and 3.7 percent of the total global notebook shipments in 2009, to 24 million units and 12 percent of shipments in 2010.
According to reports, Asus is in the process or branching off its contract manufacturing wing and will create a new company Pegatron Investment Holdings Company. As part of the split, Asus will issue a bunch of shares, 75 percent of which will go to the company's shareholders, and 25 percent to be held by Asus.
It's not clear whether or not Pegatron will also offer its manufacturing services to other Taiwanese companies or if it will exclusively supply parts to Asus. But either way, Asus is expected to put a ton of effort into promoting its own brand identity. The other major benefit is that Asus will drop its own capitalization by up to 85 percent.
While AMD's split into separate design and manufacturing businesses comes to mind, this move is more in line with what Acer did back in 2001 when it formed an independent company called Wistron to handle its manufacturing division. The move proved crucial in expanding Acer's global presence, and the company now rivals Dell as the top OEM in the world.
In the future that Acer chairman JT Wang envisions, ultra-thin notebooks with exceptional battery life will rule the mobile PC market, and to help get there, he's been urging Intel to focus more heavily on the ultra-thin segment. And Wang may be right, but why aren't we there already?
According to Wang, HP and Dell are to blame for holding the ultra-thin market back from its true potential. The reason, he says, is because both companies have dropped their mainstream notebook prices to $399 to compete, even though lightweight and skinny laptops are what consumers really want.
That's a bit of a curious statement coming from Acer, the same company notorious for low-priced parts, including notebooks. But Wang holds firm in his stance, saying that since HP and Dell haven't been pushing the ultra-thin market in the U.S., Intel has been misled into thinking there just isn't much demand.
Going forward, Wang predicts Acer's ultra-thin notebooks will account for about 30 percent of its total notebook shipments in 2010.