Why Acer is wrong about Microsoft Surface

Acer's CEO tells Microsoft to 'think twice' about building tablets because it's "not something you are good at"

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But Acer has never made a single hardware product that's groundbreaking, category leading or even exciting -- unlike Microsoft.

Acer products are solid, but bland and safe. Acer industrial design is clunky and unsophisticated and firmly stuck in the PC world of the 1990s.

Acer makes precisely the kind of hardware that has zero chance of success in Apple's iPad-driven, post-PC world.

Unlike the many laptops that Acer is best known for among users, Microsoft's Xbox 360 is in the same generational category as the Microsoft Surface. And what I mean by that is that the Xbox is really a post-PC appliance that puts a serious emphasis on innovative next-generation user interfaces.

While Acer specializes in yesterday's PCs, Microsoft makes the most advanced user interface device in the world, in the sense that Xbox uses high-definition haptic feedback, motion gesture command, voice command and more, and all this in a low-cost consumer appliance that has generated a loyal and serious fan base.

What has Acer ever built that's anywhere near as good or as advanced or exciting or as category-leading as the Xbox?

Nothing! Ever!

OEMs aren't loyal anyway

In addition to falsely stating that hardware is not something Microsoft is good at, Kan said in the same interview that "If Microsoft... is going to do hardware business, what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?"

He's basically saying that if Microsoft is going to compete against OEMs like Acer, maybe OEMs like Acer should stop being loyal to Microsoft and look for alternatives to Windows.

My question is: What is Kan smoking? Microsoft partners in general, and Acer in particular, are perfectly disloyal to Microsoft, and have been pursuing alternatives for years.

Acer sells Linux PCs without much success. Most of the company's Acer Iconia tablets run Google's Android platform.

Is Acer's CEO unaware that Acer sells Linux and Android systems as aggressively as they can, yet almost all their revenue comes from Windows systems?

What does it mean to Kan for Acer to "find other alternatives?" Simply give up the majority of its revenue and go with the platforms that are not succeeding for Acer?

Microsoft's new strategy is the best post-PC strategy

Kan slammed Surface. But what he really fears, no doubt, is the whole post-PC world.

The truth is that so far, the post-PC universe is dominated by Apple because in part Apple has the right business model. One company makes the hardware, software and supporting cloud services as one integrated consumer appliance.

So far, this is the only strategy that works in the post-PC world, from a business perspective.

That's probably why Google is hedging its bets with the Motorola purchase, and why Microsoft is doing the same with Surface.

When appliances make their way onto desktops and into enterprises, what's a company like Acer to do?

Acer is probably afraid that Apple and Google and Microsoft will end up running away with the whole market, doing their own hardware tightly integrated with their own software and their own services, leaving the Acers of the world out in the cold.

And that's a rational fear.

Acer isn't afraid that Microsoft can't make great tablets. Acer is afraid that they can.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at Elgan.com, or subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, Mike's List. You can also see more articles by Mike Elgan on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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