Acer: Dell and HP are sabotaging ultra-thin laptops

Thin and light laptops would be selling better if PC makers like Dell and HP wanted them to, Acer exec says.

Wondering why thin and light laptops with monster battery life haven't been a smashing success? Acer chairman J.T. Wang says Dell and HP are to blame.

According to DigiTimes, Wang says HP and Dell aren't pushing the ultra-thin category hard enough, particularly in the United States. Instead, they're slashing prices on mainstream notebooks, selling them for as little as US$400.

As a result, Intel's not seeing good enough sales on its consumer ultra-low voltage, or CULV, processors, Wang argued. In 2010, the chip maker plans to mainly push mainstream notebook platforms, possibly investing less in ultra-thins.

Ultra-thin laptops, such as Acer's Aspire Timeline 3810T and Asus' UL30a, tend to measure an inch thick or less, can last an entire work day on a charge and forgo an optical drive to trim down on bulk. They're larger and more powerful than netbooks, but they can struggle with gaming and 1080p HD video, partly because many ultra-thins lack dedicated graphics cards (Asus' UL80vt, on which I'm typing this, is an exception).

Wang believes that interest in ultra-thin laptops is stronger than HP and Dell would have Intel believe. At a recent trade show in Taiwan, ultra-thins accounted for half of Acer's laptops sold. Wang didn't say how Acer ultra-thins fared in 2009, but expects that they'll account for 30 percent of sales next year, backed by new models in March or April.

Wang's take on the ultra-thin market seems convoluted to me. HP and Dell aren't totally ignoring the category, with HP's ProBook 5310m and Pavilion DV2 (using AMD's Athlon Neo processor) and Dell's Inspiron 11z and the new Vostro V13. But Wang is essentially saying the competition isn't focusing on the laptops he wants to compete with, but that's of course their prerogative. And just last month, Wang was hinting at faster Intel chips on the horizon, presumably to power Acer's upcoming models, so the situation doesn't sound all bad.

In any case, Acer is the second-largest PC maker now. If ultra-thin notebooks haven't flourished, it could just be because Acer's offers haven't been attractive enough.

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Jared Newman

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