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New CEO tries to break Acer's reliance on PCs

Agam Shah | May 2, 2014
Jason Chen has been Acer's CEO for about 100 days, but he's already making major changes at the company as he boosts efforts to diversify beyond PCs and turn around years of financial and operational instability.

"What I did was to get to know people first, build relationships, establish a rapport, prepare a culture, prepare a vision... and get people excited. And later on, do a lot of, I call it 'good news.' I talk about the scorecard. We want to focus on our strengths," Chen said.

Acer will remain primarily a PC company until the emerging markets grow, Chen said. He tied the company's product strategies to "lifestyles," so Acer can respond to users' different devices and services requirements. The company will create hardware, software and cloud services accordingly, Chen said.

"It's very important that we realize how much we can reach and how much we can do," he said.

Some of Acer's most popular products are Chromebooks, which are available for as low as US$199.99 on Amazon.com. Chen is not concerned that low PC prices will hurt Acer's profits.

"When I talk to Stan Shih, our founder, he is very proud that we are able to bring PC price points to an affordable level that makes a majority of people enjoy PCs," he said.

Acer has to find more business buyers to sustain the PC business, and a gradual move to wearables makes sense, said Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.

Acer's strength has been in consumer PCs, but it's the enterprise PC business that's rebounding, which has benefitted Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Dell, O'Donnell said.

Depending on the region, Acer already has a phone and tablet presence, and wearables is the next logical market. "The challenge — this is not unique to Acer — is to figure out what the market wants," O'Donnell said.

Tech companies could face a challenge in making devices that are fashion related. "It will be interesting to see how that plays out," O'Donnell said. "Maybe Acer pulls it off."

 

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