Acer Group, the company that managed to become one of the leaders on the emerging market of netbooks back in 2009, but failed to gain traction on the growing market of media tablets and smartphones, reportedly decided to close down its touch business group specifically founded in April, 2011. While this does not prove that Acer will cease all the tablet and smartphone efforts, it is clear that the company will reduce its R&D efforts on appropriate devices.
Acer directors have confirmed to Taiwan Economic News that the company has recently merged its Android tablet business, which originally belonged to the touch business group, into its global logistics center management. Of over 300 workers of the touch business unit, 150, mostly R&D engineers, will be transferred to other business divisions, a hundred will be retained and other will be laid off.
Perhaps, the biggest problem for companies like Acer and Asustek Computer to establish their presence on the markets of smartphones and media tablets is not ability to develop appropriate hardware, but to design competitive software (e.g., adopt Google Android in the best possible way) and create relationships with new reseller partners, including cell network operators. Originally focused on hardware only, Taiwanese companies have hard times tailoring software themselves, creating new business models and relationships.
Even though Acer will likely continue to sell tablets and smartphones going forward, it is clear that the company does not want to invest substantial amounts of money into business unit that is unprofitable and cannot establish serious presence on the market. Merging tablet and PC business units has some rationale: next year Microsoft releases its Windows 8 that will somewhat unify platforms for both types of devices.
Devices based on touch-screens clearly represent the future of consumer electronics. This future naturally relies not only on hardware technology itself, but also on software, services and interoperability. It remains to be seen how will the disbandment of a dedicated division will affect the future of Acer. Sales of PCs globally will remain strong and will keep growing, but this does not mean that a world-class company should stop thinking beyond PC.