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Acer Founder Shih Says Tablets, Ultrabooks Are Fads

Acer founder Stan Shih believes that Ultrabooks and tablet PCs are fads, but he also thinks notebook makers could learn a thing or two from the iPad.

According to a Friday report from Taiwan-based technology news outlet DigiTimes, Shih encouraged notebook manufacturers to innovate beyond the Ultrabook and tablet to create more value-added products. The report didn't indicate when or where Shih made these statements.

CRN contacted Acer U.S. on Friday for clarification of Shih's comments, but a spokesperson declined to comment, noting that Acer's Taipei-based corporate communications offices were closed for the weekend.

Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder Nor-Tech, thinks Shih's comments are off base.

"For him to say the tablets and Ultrabooks are a fad makes it sounds like people are going to switch back to notebooks, but I don't think that will happen at all," said Swank. "To say that something new will replace the tablets and Ultrabooks makes some sense, but it's easy to say that something else is coming. I don't think that the product that is going to make them a fad is on the marketplace yet."

Shih said the success of the iPad stems from Apple's "outside-the-box thinking" and the company's use of the PC as a base for developing new technology, according to the DigiTimes report.

Shih's views on tablets reflect Acer's sometimes confusing stance on tablets. Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci resigned in March amid disagreements with the board of directors over the role of the tablet in Acer's business.

At the time of Lanci's departure, chairman J.T. Wang, who became interim CEO in the wake of Lanci’s departure, said the company planned a much more aggressive approach to the burgeoning mobile device market.

Swank believes that Acer's struggles in the tablet space inspired Shih's comments. "To me, they are trying to cover their tracks, because they were the golden child for a few years in the netbook space and then Apple came in and slapped them around a little bit with the iPad," Swank said.

Added Swank: "I agree that people do need to innovate like Apple did, but to say iPad is a fad is a little premature because they are breaking new ground in places where PCs have never been before."

In April, Acer launched its Android-based Iconia Tab A500 device to the U.S. tablet market and formed a new tablet division operating as a standalone business unit and spearheading what Acer called an aggressive mobile market strategy.

In spite of the new strategy, Acer in June cut its tablet forecast for 2011 from 7 million to between 2.5 and 3 million. Troubling tablet news from Acer continued into July, when the company cut the price of its Iconia A500 from $450 to $399. Acer plans to launch a seven inch model of the Iconia tablet in August with a suggested price of $300, Engadget reported in July.

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