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