Facing Competition From Microsoft's Surface Tablets, Acer Mulls Windows Alternatives


An Acer executive has hinted that the Taiwan-based manufacturer might use "other alternatives" to Microsoft Windows in its tablet computers because of Microsoft's decision to develop its own tablets that will compete with OEMs like Acer.

Campbell Kan, Acer's president for personal computer global operations, said in an interview with the Financial Times Monday that Acer is debating internally how to respond to Microsoft's Surface and other challenges that could result if Microsoft expands further into hardware.

"If Microsoft ... is going to do hardware business, what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?" the Financial Times quoted Kan as saying.

[Related: 10 Things We Learned At The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference]

In a June announcement, Microsoft unveiled its own branded Surface tablet devices that will run editions of the upcoming Windows 8 operating system.

Microsoft has played down the potential for Surface to compete with tablets manufactured by OEM partners like Acer, Samsung and Lenovo. But, in its Form 10-K annual report filed last month, the company acknowledged: "Our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform."

Kan's comments illustrate the fine line Microsoft is walking with Surface. Windows is Microsoft's flagship product and the success or failure of new products like Windows 8 depends a great deal on PC makers like Acer that load the Microsoft software onto their systems for resale.

Kan did not specify what alternatives to Windows 8 the manufacturer might consider. The most likely would be Google's Android mobile operating system.

Until now, Microsoft's OEM partners have been relatively quiet about Microsoft's Surface announcement. Kan told the Financial Times that Microsoft informed its OEM partners about Surface only shortly before the June 18 press conference.

In an exclusive interview with CRN at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference last month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Microsoft is serious about its Surface tablet plans and that the effort is not a "publicity stunt." But, he also said one of Microsoft's motivations is to raise the bar for the quality of Windows-based tablets offered by other manufacturers.

J.T. Wang, Acer chairman and chief executive, told the Financial Times that his company has informed Microsoft about its concerns about Surface. "It will create a huge negative impact for the [worldwide computing] ecosystem, and other brands may take a negative reaction," he said Acer has told Microsoft. "It is not something you are good at so please think twice."

In the Financial Times interview, however, Wang praised Microsoft's work on Windows 8 and said Acer is planning a number of new PC products that take advantage of the operating system's new user interface.

PUBLISHED AUG. 7, 2012