Acer announced a series of touch-oriented devices yesterday, as well as an accompanying cloud media offering, recognizing that much of the hoped-for growth in tablets will be driven by integrated services.
The firm is not taking sides in the debates about tablet formats, and is covering all its bases, unveiling Android devices in 7" and 10" varieties (and a smartphone), a 10" Windows slate, plus a dual-screen Windows notebook with touch display.
All the products will ship early next year, with the Windows slate coming first, in February, followed by the other models in April. The most innovative is the Iconia Touchbook, which follows the Toshiba Libretto in offering a two-screen laptop, with a touch display in place of a physical keyboard.
Amid all the discussions of whether netbooks, tablets, cloudbooks or other form factors will win out, CEO Gianfranco Lanci believes more options will emerge, rather than the market converging around just one or two. That is because of the increasing variety of uses for mobile data and the shift from using computers for content creation to content consumption.
However, it seems clear that tablets will eat into the market for netbooks, a sector where Acer has been powerful. Research from IDC forecasts that netbook sales will fall by 2% this year, and will shrink more quickly from 2011. Acer's challenge now is to compensate by gaining similar share in tablets or other new form factors, but this will be tough.
Although it has released some attractive and well regarded Android smartphones, its brand is associated with PCs rather than mobile products, while most of the tablet headlines are going to the handset makers.