March 31, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Acer announced today that CEO Gianfranco Lanci has left the company after disagreements with the Board of Directors regarding its mobile device strategy. Based on comments in the statement, Lanci wanted to dive into mobile computing, most-likely Android phones and tablets, head-on, while Acer wanted to be more conservative. The two sides couldn’t come to terms and decided to part ways.
The sound you just heard was my interest in Acer products hitting the ground with a raucous thud.
Acer Chairman J.T. Wang said that the company is “stepping into the new mobile device market, where we will invest cautiously and aim to become one of the leading players.” But leaders cannot be cautious when they enter a market in which they check-in to the game late and start far behind all of the other players. Leaders have to be bold, innovative, and make a big splash that makes people take notice. Caution will lead only to middling sales and Acer being an also-ran in the competitive Android market.
HTC, Motorola, and Samsung; these are the top Android smartphone manufacturers with whom Acer must contend. All three companies have shortcomings, but they are established brands with a proven track record to introduce quality devices that have appealed to millions of consumers. What has Acer done to boost its Android rep? With all due respect to the respectable Liquid series, there isn’t a single breath-taking Android phone in Acer’s entire smartphone portfolio.
The Acer Iconia Smart looked like it had some potential when I filmed my hands-on with the device at Mobile World Congress. Despite the lackluster software, the hardware was nice enough that I made several attempts to connect with someone who could send me a test device. It seems former CEO Lanci had similar trouble locating someone within the company who shared his vision for producing devices that would make people consider Acer.
The Acer Iconia tablets may also leave something to be desired. The hardware doesn’t feel like a premium product, and Acer made a poor first impression by showing them off without the Honeycomb Android 3.0 software that will ship with the devices. That made the Acer 100 and Acer 500 tablets seem like they are almost there. They are slabs of meat that, while edible, probably won’t taste as good if left on the grill just a tad longer. Is that because Acer didn’t allocate enough resources necessary to develop the best possible product? (I’m not even sure Honeycomb would make me change my opinion if I saw the devices again today. )
It appears the board at Acer is content to just release mid-range phones and be known as one of the many PC-makers present in Best Buy. Considering the shift to mobile computing, why not try to be just as formidable in the phone or tablet sections of Best Buy as you are in the laptop areas? Acer has the manufacturing experience to deliver a competitive product at a reasonable price; however, it doesn’t seem to have the fortitude to do it.
I already view HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and now LG as the premiere options for purchasing an Android phone or tablet. Acer had a chance – very small, but a chance nonetheless – to sneak into the fray before this news. I can only hope that the next person to assume the reins at Acer proves more successful at convincing the company to guzzle the Android Kool-Aid rather than sip it. By the time that happens, I’ll probably be reading about it on my Android tablet made by a company other than Acer.