Acer, the Taiwanese Microsoft partner that became extremely vocal about the branded Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets, is reportedly working on its own Windows RT tablet -- again. The news arrives after the company stated over the past year that it plans to take a wait-and-see approach to developing devices based on Windows RT.
Oliver Ahrens, Acer's president of Europe, Middle East and Africa operations, confirmed with the IDG News Service during Mobile World Congress 2013 that Windows RT will be part of the company's aggressive mobile lineup for this year. He didn't specify as to when a product will be launched, but did admit that Microsoft needs to put more work into making the Modern UI more appealing to consumers.
The news of a Windows RT tablet from Acer is surprising given that sales have been somewhat lackluster thus far – even Microsoft hasn't released actual sales numbers for Surface RT. During 2012 Acer sat back and watched its competitors rush Windows RT tablets to the market in order to make the Windows 8 launch date. Now two months into 2013, Acer is quite happy with its decision – it didn't want to sell just 20 units a day as seen with one unnamed competitor.
"It's not a rat race," he said. "We could have released it already."
During Computex 2012, Acer said it planned to release a Windows RT tablet. But the company put those plans on hold and focused instead on Windows 8-based laptops. Early reception for the new OS has reportedly been "cold" partially due to a heavy inventory of Windows 7 laptops which needed to clear out before Windows 8 sales could bloom.
That said, fears of a massively overhauled OS may have also caused a cold reception from consumers, fears that have somewhat subsided now that early adopters have figured out that Windows 8 is merely an updated Windows 7 with an optional tablet-focused overlay. A lack of touch-based hardware has also hindered Windows 8's overall acceptance, as screens are still rather expensive for OEMs who want to keep prices low for customers.
"Surely and steadily the appreciation is growing, but it's not a boom," Ahrens said. "The perceived value of Windows 8 has not really [reached] ... users as the way we'd like to see it with Microsoft products."
Like its competitors, Acer is trying to reposition itself as PC sales decline due to customers relying on tablets and smartphones as their main computing device. At one time Acer was the world's second-largest PC maker thanks to its success with netbooks. But tablets and smartphones seemingly eradicated that form factor, and now the company is trying to regroup in a netbook-free world.
In addition to resuming Windows RT tablet development, Acer plans to launch between four to six smartphones in 2013 alone, two of which are the Liquid E1 and Liquid Z2 which were revealed this week during Mobile World Congress 2013. The company is shooting to offer a standardized user experience while remaining competitive in price.