While Asus is dropping Windows RT to focus on Windows 8, competing device maker Acer said it plans to offer more Chrome OS and Android-based devices than Microsoft-based products. Company president Jim Wang confirmed this roadmap on Thursday during a conference call with investors, stating that the company is trying to grow its non-Windows business as soon as possible.
"Android is very popular in smartphones and dominant in tablets," he said. "I also see a new market there for Chromebooks."
The news arrives after Acer reported a surprising net loss of $11.39 million in the April-June quarter, blaming increasing expenses on investments to strengthen the company’s industrial design capability and the declining gross margin due to DRAM’s price hike. The company's reported consolidated revenue was $2.97 billion, down 2.8 percent for the quarter or down 19.2 percent for the year. Its operating loss was $20.35 million.
Like its competitors, Acer has struggled to regain its footing in a consumer market, shifting over to cheaper, mobile products. Many of its latest product rollouts have consisted of AIO desktops, notebooks and tablets. It's also experimented with hybrid designs like the Aspire R7, which sports a unique hinge that transforms the device from tablet to an AIO to a laptop. The Iconia W3 is the industry's first 8 inch Windows 8-based tablet.
Wang told investors that during the second quarter, Chromebooks made up close to 3 percent of Acer's shipments. He didn't provide any Android specifics, but commented that Android and Chrome OS will likely contribute 10 percent to 12 percent of Acer's revenue by the end of the year -- a number that could increase to 30 percent in 2014. The remainder is expected to be generated by Microsoft-based products, he said.
"The Windows camp has to do something to reestablish or reinforce confidence among PC users," added Chairman J.T. Wang. "People are reluctant [to buy] and are holding [off] their purchasing decisions."
As for the PC industry, President Jim Wang said that he hasn't seen the light at the end of the tunnel. "First, we have to sustain our market share and protect our bottom line…and by doing tablets and smartphones right, we can be prepared for the day after tomorrow."
Despite the shift to mobile, compact and hybrid form factors, Acer hasn't abandoned the desktop market. Just recently the company unleashed the Windows 8-based Predator AG3-605 series, packing features like Creative's Sound Blaster Cinema, EAX, fourth-generation Intel Core "Haswell" processors, Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 graphics, and more. The series spans five SKUs with prices ranging from $999.99 to $1,499.99, indicating that Acer is aware that a market for higher-end machines still exists.
As of June, Acer was indecisive about producing a tablet based on Windows RT. Chairman J.T. Wang said in an interview that the ARM-based version of Windows 8 was not "so influential anymore," and that the company needed to be realistic about mass producing such a device. The company's stance on Windows RT has been mixed for a while, but with the lackluster sales of Microsoft's Surface tablets, Acer's own blunder with the Iconia W3 tablet, and rising costs, the company may be leaning towards relying on Google's two platforms in the mobile market.