Acer plans to launch Windows RT devices in Q1 2013

Acer president Jim Wong expects Dell and HP to eventually exit the PC market

Acer plans to release ARM-based devices running Windows RT during next year's first quarter and expects rivals Dell and HP to eventually exit the PC industry, according to company president Jim Wong.

On Monday, Acer unveiled new tablets and ultrabooks, using Intel chips, and running Windows 8. But the company also intends to release products centered on Windows RT, a version of Microsoft's Window 8 specifically built for ARM devices.

"The form factor is not exactly the same," Wong said during an interview, without elaborating. "It is going to be a portable device with an ARM chip inside."

Windows RT devices are expected to feature long battery life, a major selling point offered by ARM chips. But unlike the other versions of Windows 8, it cannot run legacy Windows applications.

Despite this drawback, Acer has been encouraging mobile chip vendors Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments to develop ARM processors for Windows RT, according to Wong, who noted that over the long term, users will appreciate the touch-based features and low power consumption the devices can still bring.

"This is not going to happen overnight. It's not going to be a big business," he said. "But this is good for the whole industry and you (the mobile chip vendors) are going to be winners in the end."

Wong made his comments as the PC industry faces sagging sales growth, as well as competition from Apple's iPad. Acer's PC market share has fallen as a result, with the company posting financial losses in last year's second and third quarter.

The PC industry's struggles have sparked speculation that industry giants HP and Dell could eventually exit the PC market, given that both companies are focusing heavily on providing enterprise services, which can yield higher profits. Last year, HP announced it would spin off its PC business, only to renege on the plan. Dell has also said it is no longer a PC company, but an IT solutions company.

Wong said he could foresee HP and Dell leaving the PC market. "Not because we think we are much better than they are. I consider that we work much harder than they do," he said. He noted that both HP and Dell face the problem of defining themselves, while Acer has committed itself to the hardware business.

"At least for Acer, we are so focused," he said. "We failed on the PCs because of the focus on nothing but market share, and selling. We didn't care about the end customers. We want to solve this problem, and we want to come back. And this is our main turf."

To help Acer make its turnaround, the company is betting big that Windows 8 will revitalize the PC industry, and stated that the OS could help usher a "golden age" of vendors competing to offer innovative products. On Monday, Acer unveiled two new Windows 8 ultrabooks that are built with touchscreens, along with a pair of tablets that come with peripherals.

With its new products, Acer is trying to offer hybrid hardware designs that can challenge more conventional tablets, Wong said. "The world is coming back to 'I will try to innovate ahead of you,' rather than for the last 15 years, 'PC is like this, and only Apple was innovating.' That's the chance I'm seeing."

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Michael Kan

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