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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Good idea kicks up a Storm

In a case of "credit where credit is due", I gotta hand it to the guys at Dell for bringing the world IdeaStorm.

Without going over the where's and the why's, and leaving aside the how's and who's for a minute, have you seen the what's?

If anyone's unfamiliar with IdeaStorm, it takes the Web 2.0 voting system made famous by Digg and applies it in a kind of online suggestion box. Shel Holtz gives a pretty good review on his blog.

The results must be making some people very very nervous indeed.

At time of writing, the suggestion "Offer the 3 top free Linux versions for free pre-installation on all Dell PCs" had received 92,806 votes (in 12 days) while "Provide for free pre-installation alongside Microsoft Works and Microsoft Office. is more capable than Microsoft Works, and a serious competitor to Microsoft Office, at a fraction of the cost (it's free!)" had clocked up 60,300 votes (in 11 days).

Given the "weight" of bundled MS software on the final price of all Windows PCs, and the fact that a huge percentage of calls to customer support are software-related issues as opposed to hardware failures, it'll be interesting to see where this goes. After all if the public is ready, who's to blame Dell for putting pressure on MS?

I wonder how closely the boys from Redmond are following this.

Acer gets into a Ferrari Challenge

Who said computers were boring?

Die-hard gamers know they’re not and anyone who’s earned 8 Linden dollars an hour gyrating somewhere meaningless in SecondLife knows there’s plenty of room for a giggle online.

Yesterday I received another mail from Ferrari World which I like to keep track of but never ventured into as I’m a little fussy about my paid memberships and have trouble thinking what Ferrari could possibly offer me under a paid subscription that I can’t get free somewhere else online. But that’s another story.

I was intrigued by the words “X-Challenge” on one of the stories and clicked to see what it was.

Turns out Ferrari World has launched a free racing simulation game called Ferrari X-Challenge where you can whiz round Fiorano or Mugello in an F430 Challenge. Club Ferrari members get to race each other online which is where that subscription fee enters the equation. Without it you’re on your own which, if you’re like me and your virtual driving skills would get you arrested in real life, is much better as I did more damage to my car than I’d care to admit publicly.

What’s this got to do with Acer? Well, as Official Sponsors to Scuderia Ferrari, Acer gets its own car!

Personally I think looking at a Ferrari F430 in “Acer Green” is more of a challenge than getting to grips with the car itself but hey, nobody’s perfect!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

c530 up and running straight out of the box

I know this might sound a bit of an oxymoron but here's an interesting video I found over on YouTube of a guy unpacking his Acer c530 Pocket PC.

Why's this interesting? Apart from the sheer quantity of connection cables that come out of the box, I like the way the guy is able to unpack it, fit the battery and have it working in less that 150 seconds.

I'm not sure if that's a record but it sure is impressive to see something working so fast straight out of the box. Certainly never happens to me...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Acer build quality

Here's an interesting forum I ran into today.

NotebookReviews is a site dedicatd to open (sometimes very open) discussions on the quality of products and services from IT manufacturers.

I was looking at the "Acer build quality" forum and thought I'd share this poll with you.

Alexa's take on the world of IT

As many of you know, I've been getting really interested in Acer's online performance.

No, I'm not talking about SignalUp technology or wireless connectivity.

I'm referring to its sites.

I am a regular visitor to Alexa, which although mind-bogglingly geeky, does give a pretty good view of the world's top websites.

TheAcerGuy isn't there of course, but Acer is, along with its local satellite sites and, more importantly, its competitors.

If you throw in enough addresses, and plot the differences in Word, Excel or whatever, comparing the results can make fascinating reading (if you're in to that sort of thing).

But there's one feature I'm particularly fond of and right now it's showing a major shift. Alexa traffic Rankings gives you the possibility to compare site performance with competitors on the same graph (up to 5 at a time).

Now Acer's at the bottom of my 5 brand list (Dell, HP, Lenovo and Asus) but rather than drawing your attenytion to the bottom (the only way is up!), have a look at what's going on up at the top. All but 1 is stable.

Daily Reach (20/02/2007)

Daily Page Views (20/02/2007)

What on earth is happening to Dell??

OK Page Reach is different to Page Views (can anyone explain this in plain English?) but either way there's a worrying haemorrhage there.

Are you seeing this Richard?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Acer C510 at Crave

There's something spooky about Acer at the moment.

Don't get alarmed, this is not a warning, complaint or anything like that. Just the opposite.

For years Acer has been the underdog, living silently with this "budget PC" name tag. I personally always championed Acer's notebooks because I literally penned (typed) my entire career on them. How's that for an endorsement?

But now things are different for Acer. Call it expanded product range, call it technical expertise, but lately Acer just keeps getting it right.

First of all you can see it in the way it's rapidly becoming one of the top brands.

Then you can see it in the way it's now compared with the big-boys in the home entertainment sector, how it's learning the rules and making its own particular mark with innovative convergence products like the Aspire iDea.

And now there are reviews like this one for the Acer C510 Pocket PC over on Crave.

As a general rule, Acer picks uphill battles with some of its products, combining two (or more) products in one and upsetting one or the other parties. Witness the 37" LCD TV with built-in media gateway, the MP340 portable hard-disk-cum-MP3 player. And then there are the hand-held devices.

By combining a pocket PC with a GPS navigator, Acer has carved a whole new challeng for its designers and technicians but, judging by the review, seems to have pulled it off.

"There are some ropey examples out there, but Acer seems to be getting the hang of combining a Pocket PC with GPS. The key thing it's got right with the C510 is the integrated antenna -- some rivals have flip-out aerials, which make them a bit unwieldy. It's also small and pocketable, weighing just 122g."

Sounds like Acer's pretty much figured out this convergence thing.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Italian Press Conference photos

As promised, here are some photos taken at yesterday's Italian press conference.

Apologies for the quality but do have a look at the past models. It's fascinating to see how just how much notebooks have changed in such a short period of time.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Acer Italy press conference

Today I got to get out of the office and go into town.

I’m in Milan at the Acer Italy Press Conference. So far the vibe’s pretty good.

There’s a video playing at the moment showing the numerous awards received by Acer and its products over the last year or so. I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on a version to post here although it’s a long one.

The presenters today include Massimo D’Angelo, country manager for Italy, and Valentina Sodini, the Italian notebook product manager. This is her first time in front of the press. As it turns out she’s a natural.

The plan is to talk about results (we already know those but thankfully they get them out of the way right away) and 2007 objectives which is a little more interesting but that’s just me.

The usual line up of current products greeted the attendees but that wasn’t the major attraction. At the back of the conference room – placed on top of a snaking display case that showed the major milestones in the evolution of the brand, from its origins as Multitech through to the name change in 1987 and brand logo evolution – were some of the most significant notebooks in Acer’s history, ranging from the TravelMate 2000 from 1990 right up to the latest Veriton 1000 small form factor PC.

Tomorrow I’ll get a Flickr slide show up – it’s really worth a look.

There is definitely a shift in focus here. The change from a sales-oriented company to one proud of its origins, identity and future is palpable.

OK. Massimo’s on. He starts off by looking at the global positioning, Acer is fourth, only slightly behind Lenovo so at least we have a clear shot at the objective for 2007.

In EMEA, Acer is number 2 overall behind HP but number 1 for notebooks. HP shouldn’t be underestimated though as they’re growing very, very fast in EMEA. Interesting fact: the two leading companies represent over 40% of the total notebook market.

Desktops are a little less promising; Acer is in third position behind HP and Dell.

The competitive edge is coming through. Massimo is clearly aware of the difficulties of the market, the abilities of the competition and also the sheer potential of Acer.

Massimo is now talking about the challenges Acer faced in 2006 among which, reduced ASPs feature heavily. This is interesting in light of the declarations made by Gianpiero Morbello a few days ago in the UK. Perhaps Acer is so confident about the success of its products that it has decided to drive the market back up again?

Become Top 2 within 2008.
N.1 notebook
N.3 desktop
N.4 Server

Look out competition - this is where Acer’s going to pushing hardest ;-)

Massimo has now moved on to structural changes within the company.
Acer has split its European operations into two areas: mature markets and emerging markets. At the same time, the company has split its product divisions into two new business divisions. Professional and Consumer, meaning that product managers no longer have a broad market sweep spanning from home users to large enterprises.

The Extensa makes a welcome return at the value end of the professional notebook segment that includes TravelMate, Veriton and Ferrari brands. Aspire (NB and PC) to be handled by consumer division.

There will no longer be business products (TravelMates) available in consumer channels and vice versa. Essentially, from now on, you’ll only find Aspires and consumer products in retail stores. For everything else, you’ll have to go to another channel (Acer Point). From the looks of things that also includes the premium Ferrari range too, but I’ll have to check on this.

What this also means (although no-one’s mentioned it) is that there’ll be a clear distinction between the Aspire and TravelMate lines, which at the moment overlap considerably, both in looks and features. Don’t know how or in what form, but it seems to me that if they have separated these two product lines into two distinct divisions and they are no longer to be sold through the same channels, they are going to be very, very different from each other sooner or later.

Now here’s something special. Acer Italy has invested 1 million Euros in a new site for service laboratory, designed to:

• Improve logistic flows
• Increase availability of spare parts
• Improve the quality of repairs
• Reduce repair cycle times

Acer has also invested in Customer Service and Support (CSS) software that measures cycle times, average repair times, max delays for repairs, average no. calls, call centre success rates etc..

This is great news as it’s more than likely to be (if it isn’t already) replicated across the entire European region and beyond.

Another novelty is that dealers are now to be included into the service flow. That means, rather than schlepping off to the Acer service centre, customers can now take their malfunctioning products back to where they bought it and these dealers will take care of sending, tracking and returning the damaged product. The dealers will then be remunerated directly from Acer for their trouble. Now that’s what I call a step in the right direction!

This program is due to be up and running by the end of March 2007.

Valentina Sodini
Valentina gets straight to the point, explaining Acer’s approach to its customer base and the products and solutions that derive from this relationship.

She’s describing Acer’s approach to its customer base. The way it focuses on end users, the market, the channel and its needs. Valentina’s doing a great job but apart from the new organizational structure, there’s no news here, except for the rising popularity and impact of online E-Tailers.

Q&A Time: Massimo confirmed that Vista will make no impact on the retail price of Acer’s products and went through the Vista upgrade process. This is handled directly through the moduslink website (details available on Acer’s press release).

There have been claims that this is a free service whereas in fact the company responsible for shipping the software is charging the users shipping costs (currently averaging at about 20 Euros).

OK that was a long day and this is an unusually long post but I wanted to share this side of the Acer experience with you. Tomorrow I’ll try and get some of the photos up.

Acer durability tests

Another interesting video about the quality testing performed on Acer notebooks.

Durability testing is something rarely mentioned but these tests do play an extremely important part of the initial design brief of the product.

I'll write more on the subject shortly.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Upping the price or the quality of the range?

The headline of an article over on RegHardware says that Acer is about to put up the prices of its notebooks (in the UK).

But if you read the article, you'll see that this isn't the case and a price rise is not in the plan. What the article does say is that Acer is "looking to get more SKUs (notebooks) on the shelves of its partners, at more price points", with 17 inch and 20 inch models available at the higher end of the spectrum.

Translated, this means Acer is going to offer a bigger, more feature-packed range through its channel partners this year and that may well push the average sales price up.

But far from giving its customers less for their money, this decision will put a greater number of premium models (higher spec and higher cost) onto the market and help Acer shed its budget image.

Upgrade your Empowering Technology

During my usual rounds of what's out there concerning Acer, I came across this forum post where you can upgrade the Empowering Technology from version 1.0 to version 2.0. The guy who posted it did it successfully on his Aspire 5672.

There's even a video showing you how it looks (you might want to open it on the YouTube page and expand it to full screen as the quality isn't that good).

If any of you decide this is worth it (the upgrade links all point to Acer Support Site), let me know how you get on.

While I'm on the subject of upgrading, has anyone actually upgraded to Windows Vista on their Acer yet? If there's anyone out there that has I'd love to know how you got on and how easy/difficult it was.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Good news from Egypt

There is something fascinating about news aggregators. Apart from consuming a HUGE amount of time, they give you access to stories you would otherwise never have access to. I use Newsgator, although I’m also getting into which is another thing altogether.

This morning while looking through my Acer keyword search, I came across an fascinating story about Acer’s recent success in Egypt.

“Acer Computer Middle East and Mantrac have announced today that they will look to supply the lion's share of PCs earmarked for millions of homes across Egypt as part of its ‘PC for Every Home’ initiative”.

It’s not the sales story that interests me, more the initiative itself, which aims to make PCs affordable to most, if not all, sectors of the Egyptian population. The project talks of distributing 7 Million PCs over a period of 7 Years.

Obviously there are financial rewards for winning a public tender offer like this, in addition to marketing gains. But if Acer was given the highest rating after a “rigorous assessment” by the Egyptian Government, this is good news for everyone involved, none more so than those about to get online for the first time.

Acer and Barcelona team up

Here's an interesting story for all you sports fans out there. I found it in the Sunday Times last week-end but only now have I been able to track it down online.

It’s not the easiest of sites to navigate and the link above may well take you to the home page but if you make it to the Business section and pull down the drop-down menu, you should find it there.

What’s the story??

Acer has entered into a multi-million pound sponsorship deal with FC Barcelona.

Similar to Acer’s Gold Partner sponsorship of F. C. Internazionale Milano – Inter, this deal will give Acer exclusive rights to pitch-side advertising at Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium.

In the article, Gianpiero Morbello, Acer’s UK managing director, says that “the arrangements would be in place in time for Barcelona’s next Champions’ League match”.

This is aggressive brand placement. In the sports world, Acer’s got sponsorship deals with some of the world’s leading teams, including Ferrari, Inter (in Italian) and now Barcelona, not to mention Acer’s ties with Women's World Cup golfing tournament in South Africa and Acer's involvement in the Acer Girls Golf Program.

Sport is part of the Acer ethos. The competitive pursuit of maximum results has driven Acer from one success to another, and is just one of the reasons Acer is becoming so popular the world across.

However it’s not just sport that absorbs all of Acer’s sponsorship energy. “Building Bridges Between the High-Tech and Artistic Worlds” is the introduction you’ll find on the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre website, demonstrating that Acer’s sponsorship interests go beyond the most obvious, ROI-friendly choices. Acer was also Sponsor of the 2006 Tour in China of Milan’s world-famous La Scala theatre.

But this piece is about football. Football’s another story and Barça is on another level entirely. MÉS QUE UN CLUB!

One important addition to this post is that alongside several other charitable initiatives, FC Barcelona has made a commitment to Unicef’s humanitarian aid programs through the donation of one and a half million euros for the next five years. This is why the team players now wear the Unicef logo on their shirts.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ferrari 1000 tablet?

You remember recently there was that furor when Microsoft and Edelman (and AMD) teamed up and handed out something like 100 Acer Ferrari notebooks to some of the planet's top bloggers?

Well I've just come across a fascinating vlog posted by one of them, Hugo Ortega the guy behind Ubertablet.

Ever wanted to see the world's first Ferrari 1000 TABLET?

Check it out..

The real value of the Acer brand

I have received a fascinating report on Brand Value.

It all started with an article in the Daily Mirror reporting that Acer was third on the list of companies that “used the most branding”.

Well that confused me so I headed off to the publishers of the report over at Brand Finance and downloaded the BrandFinance250 report, an extremely detailed and well-written annual report on “the world’s most valuable brands”.

Acer’s third place comes in quite a particular category, “Brand contribution to enterprise value”.

Essentially, this category ranks how much of a company’s value is determined by the brand itself. An interesting quote at the foot of the page says that the average brand value of the 250 companies considered in the list was 18%, indicating how strong the Acer brand is and ultimately how much its brand reputation plays in determining the value of the company.

Oddly enough, the Acer brand isn’t listed on the ‘Brand Strength Index’ of the same report, which suggests that while it plays a decisive role in determining the value of Acer, as a brand, it still has somewhere to go.

Of course that fits in with a recent declaration by Gianpiero Morbello, Acer UK’s managing director who, in last week’s Sunday Times declared: “We are not scared to say that we will be No.1 overall sooner or later”.

The only way is up?

Gridvista and other technologies

A few months ago I posted an article about the various technologies used on Acer products.

I've noticed that Acer is now driving interest in this subject by dedicating a part of its corporate websites to these added-value technologies.

But if you want to see Gridvista in action, check out this advert.

Acer TravelMate C100 TV ad

OK, so YouTube had a major setback last week thanks to Viacom's reluctance to allow Google's latest acquisition continue to stream its content.

But that doesn't mean it's lost its claim as one of the top places to find stuff that interests the likes of you and me.

I don't know where you're reading from but where I live, Acer doesn't air TV ads, so it was great to uncover this one for the TravelMate C100 tablet.

The thing I really like is the comment underneath the video (on the YouTube site). " Looks like it has a long bat life". Brilliant critique :-)

Shifting the focus of "benefits"

Please forgive my foray into unchartered waters for a minute but I wanted to use this space to underline something I'd like all PC vendors to commit to more aggressively.

Greenpeace regularly publishes their Green Electronics Guide and you can see the updated one here.

I found the video below over on Drew Meyer's blog and it stopped me in my tracks.

This may sound prosaic, particularly coming from me, but if "solutions" has ousted "technology" as the driving force behind innovation, then isn't it time these same solutions provided more than just a personal benefit by actively contributing to the long-term prosperity of the people whose lives they were originally intended to serve?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Acer Ferraris pick up more awards

While I'm on the subject of awards, I just read here that the Acer Ferrari 1000 and Ferrari 5000 "are winners of the 2006/7 Good Design Award accredited by the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization. The Good Design Award is among the world’s most famous historical design awards, and since 1957, has served to identify excellent design products that promote the quality of life via the power of design."

Knowing how painstakingly thorough the Japanese are when it comes to aesthetics, this award is yet another recognition of the level of care and thought that went into these outstanding designs.

Trusted Review of the C510

If you don't want to take my word for how good the C500 series is, the C510 got a score of 8/10 over on the Trusted Review site.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

C500 series mixes functionaly, value and award-winning style

Have you ever noticed the trend for PC magazines (and not only) to give out awards to the best-performing, highest-value, lowest-weighing products?

OK, “lowest-weighing product” might not be a real award but what difference does it make to you, the buying public?

I drive a Ford S-Max which, in case you haven't noticed, is Car of the Year. I know that didn't influence my decision one way or another but there again, it is comforting to know that what I think is a great car, is actually, at a global level, considered to be just that. I'm not crazy after all!

So when a notebook, digital camera or LCD monitor wins an award, on face value it might not seem like an important event, but the fact remains that in the hugely competitive world of IT, an award singles you out as delivering more quality, more performance or simply better value than the alternatives, and that small detail can make a very large difference in the fortunes of that product.

So it’s nice to see that the Acer c500 personal navigator series has won a coveted iF Design Award. The iF (International Forum) design award was established 53 years ago, making it one of the world’s most celebrated design authorities.

If the design is first class, the C500 is hardly lacking spec-wise with its 2.8" QVGA screen, Samsung S3C2442 processor at 300Mhz, 64MB RAM, 128MB ROM, Bluetooth, WiFi (on certain models), GPS and a SDIO slot.

Considering all it offers, the top-of-the-range, WiFi-equipped Acer 530 isn't even all that expensive.

All change at Dell could help the rest of us

There have been some pretty unsavoury reports over the departure of Kevin Rollins from Dell. A typical article, like this one over on Yahoo! News, focuses more on the recent "fall from grace" of Dell than on any strategic decision or personal motivations for the change, almost attributing the entire blame for Dell’s less-than-first-class results to Mr. Rollins.

Over on Dell’s blog, the tone is much more low-key with Michael Dell giving a quick, 16-second video comment on his new role.

Whilst I’m no financial expert and far be it from me to pass judgement on this decision, the Yahoo! article above underlines just how savagely unhealthy the IT sector is as a whole, and I’m sure Michael Dell’s reappearance will help revitalize both Dell’s fortunes and reinvigorate the market for all of us.

I wish him the best of luck.