Acer is considering abandoing the manufacture of Windows hardware if Microsoft releases its Surface line of Windows 8 tablets. So says the company's president of personal computer global operations. Is it a real threat or just empty bluster?
According to the Financial Times, Campbell Kan, Acer's president for personal computer global operations, said that the company is debating what it should do about Microsoft's release of Surface tablets. He said:
"If Microsoft...is going to do hardware business, what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?"
Kan echoed what Acer CEO JT Wang told the Financial Times. Wang also warned Microsoft not to release Surface tablets, saying:
"We have said [to Microsoft] think it over. Think twice. It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction."
He then zinged Microsoft for being poor at hardware design:
"It is not something you are good at so please think twice."
Microsoft can't be surprised about Acer's reaction. In its recent annual report to the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission, Microsoft warned:
"...our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform."
When the Surface was first revealed, analysts warned about this as well. Carolina Milanesi, research VP at Gartner, said:
"With Surface, Microsoft has just made it even harder for every ODM [original design manufacturer] out there to compete in the tablet market -- aside from Apple, that is."
The truth is, though, Acer's comments are little more than bluster. It has nowhere else to go. Its only alternative would be to bet on Android tablets. But even there, it will be competing against Google, who uses Asus to manufacture its excellent Nexus 7.
"Partners aren't going anywhere. Most of them have tried Android tablets, but without any success. So although this might irritate them, Microsoft knows that [the OEMs] need them."
And Acer and others have only themselves to blame for Microsoft building Surface tablets. They simply haven't done a particularly good job at hardware design, and Microsoft wanted to make sure that high-quality tablets are available that show off Windows 8 to its best effect. Acer CEO Wang admitted to AllThingsD back in December that it was selling low-quality hardware, which was a mistake. He said that the company would stop "pursuing market share blindly with cheap and unprofitable products."
Of course, his new strategy might not work out so well: He then said that ultrabooks would be the company's "growth driver" for 2012, and those devices have largely tanked.
So Acer can posture and bad-mouth Microsoft all it wants about Surface tablets. The truth is, Acer has nowhere else to go except to Windows.