updated 07:55 pm EDT, Tue September 21, 2010
Editorial: Acer next in line of Apple imitators
Acer is well on its way to becoming the world’s largest PC manufacturer. And it has done that by capitalizing on the success of Windows. But now the company is taking aim at Apple, and it's becoming evident that it's the latest victim of a bipolar behavior in the tech industry whenever Apple is a competitor.
Earlier this month, Acer veteran Stan Shih said that Apple’s products are “mutant viruses” that, over time, will be overcome by competition that “evolves naturally” and outlasts the threat Apple’s products pose. He pointed to the success of Windows to prove his point. He also believed that Android will follow a Windows-like pattern and take out iOS.
Perhaps that’s why Acer seems ready to invest some of its cash into Google’s mobile platform. Recent reports suggest the PC maker will be offering three tablets at the beginning of next year to compete with Apple’s iPad. If true, they will all be powered by Android 3.0 when it’s made available. So far, Acer has been tight-lipped on the release of the products other than one model, and reports are merely rumors at this point. But it’s becoming clearer that the company will be delivering tablets sooner rather than later. And when that happens, Acer fully expects to compete with Apple’s iPad.
But at this point, Acer isn’t competing in the tablet space -- at all. And one could argue that it’s hardly a direct competitor to Apple in any market, including the PC space where it’s far more focused on beating HP than anything else. That means focusing on cheap computers and tight profit margins. That's seemingly at odds with challenging a company that prides itself on high-quality (and thus expensive) products where market share is an incidental worry.
And yet, Acer seems to have Apple envy. That Shih calls the company’s products mutant viruses seems to prove that point quite handily; it's afraid of something that grows faster than its own work.
Of course, Apple envy isn’t anything new in the tech space. Microsoft has been bashing Apple’s Mac OS X for years even at the same time as it was taking notes: Windows Vista was altered to match Tiger's looks, and the Windows 7 taskbar's hybrid shortcuts and status icons were borrowed from the Mac OS X Dock. Companies like Dell and HP have repeatedly claimed to be going their own ways with design, but systems like the Adamo XPS and Envy series were meant to snatch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro buyers, sometimes with uncannily similar looks. And the mobile space is littered with complaints from competitors that attempt to denigrate Apple’s iPhone and iPad even as they're releasing similar products of their own.
Acer is simply joining a long list.
But it’s a sizable (and important) addition to that list. After all, Acer is a major player in the industry. And when it sees Apple’s tablet, which is still in its infancy, as a threat tells us everything we need to know about Acer’s mindset -- and where it plans to go next with its corporate strategy.
Like so many other companies, Acer's real issue isn't that Apple is somehow out of control, it just doesn’t like that Apple has unprecedented hype for its products. The company also can’t stand that Apple is doing so well on so-called “viruses.” Plus, there's even a hint of personal jealousy: executives at these firms hate that Steve Jobs gets the attention and respect that he does while their management, however successful, isn't daring enough to get noticed. It’s a recipe for severe distaste.
There must be something about Apple. After all, what other company in the space can annoy competitors in one breath yet get them to tag along with another?
By Don Reisinger