This soft-spoken articulate Italian head of a Taiwan-based PC manufacturing firm is perhaps best known for having changed consumer perception of what a computer should cost. With its competitive, even cut-throat, pricing in the mobile PC segment, Acer President Gianfranco Lanci not only managed to do well through the economic crisis but also emerged as the second largest PC maker in the world.
Talking about numbers in an interview on the sidelines of Acer's Source Home Summit in Beijing recently, Mr. Lanci says that he expects growth in the emerging markets, China and Brazil in particular, to help them overtake market leader Hewlett-Packard in the global notebook and netbook PC segment. He believes that this seemingly big target will be achieved in a year.
In several emerging markets, Acer is already far ahead of its competitors in market share. Notable exceptions are India (where it finished at number three with 11.9 per cent share in the total PC segment) and China (where it finished a late fifth with barely 3.2 per cent of the pie). Mr. Lanci says his focus is to expand the base and overtake competitors in these emerging markets where there is “immense possibility”. On the rapidly changing nature of PC commoditisation and buyer motivation, Mr. Lanci says that technological improvement is no longer a sole selling point. “Design, ‘look and feel' and synchronisation tools to facilitate migration across PCs are the new selection criteria. And touch features will become a standard at least for the youth segment that we view as having no fixed computing habits,” he explained. Today, computer users are as young as ten or even eight years, so usage patterns and requirements are fast changing, he observed.
Mr. Lanci believes that the entry of 3G technology will certainly change the nature of the Indian market. “3G is big. Today, it may still be an option for many. But it will soon become the rule — like wi-fi is today. In fact, we will soon find that 3G is not enough and will be forced to move on to the next level,” Mr. Lanci predicts. Today, there are already one billion 3G users and the projection is that by 2012 this number would have doubled, he adds. Though he does not spell out any improvised strategy for India post the entry of 3G, he points out that the company's smartphones (that were launched last year in India) are doing very well. “I feel that India is a huge opportunity in terms of smartphones, and we are certainly focussing on that,” he said.
Mr. Lanci emphasises that going Open Source is critical to the future of computing. He confirmed that Acer's much-talked-about notebook PC (that will run on Google's Chrome Operating system) is indeed on the anvil. “We are working closely with Google on this,” he said. He had earlier announced that Acer's yet-to-be-named Tablet PC will also run on the Open Source operating system Android. “Android is very good, particularly in terms of Internet browsing and connectivity. It is efficient and light enough not to overload the CPU. Also, from the consumer point of view, Open Source is the most sensible option,” he said reiterating his commitment to Open Source products. “It is no longer just a Wintel world,” he added. He notes that lack of standards, and Open ones at that, in the world of gadgets is particularly problematic. For instance, Acer's newly launched strategy, Clear.fi, that aims at managing home and personal digital media across devices, allows for sharing content across devices, including personal computers (be it mobile, desktop or tablet) and consumer electronics. This works across devices that are DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance)-compliant. However, Mr. Lanci concedes that lack of common standards in the consumer electronics segment is an impediment.
“In our world (of PC hardware), we are used to standards. But consumer electronics (manufacturers) are always protecting themselves. For us, it is critical that devices can talk to each other, and this is important for the consumer too. We hope things will change, perhaps.”