Acer delays Windows tablets in response to Microsoft Surface launch

By Graeme Burton
01 Nov 2012 View Comments

Acer, one of the big-five PC vendors, has put back the launch of its own Windows RT tablets following the launch of the Microsoft Surface and the mixed reviews that it has received.

The company is unlikely to release a similar product before April 2013, as a result, while it assesses the state of the market and decides whether to compete against the operating system vendor in its first foray into computer hardware.

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Although the first batch of Microsoft Surface devices have sold well, the hardware vendors that Microsoft has traditionally relied on to propagate its products have been annoyed at what they regard as the software giant's encroachment into their space.

Competition from Microsoft, the lack of software for the device, due to its reduced functionality compared to "full fat" Windows 8-based systems, and the inability to load applications independent of Microsoft's app store has made a number of hardware makers hesitant to provide full support.

Early reviews have also highlighted a number of glitches, such as a lack of smoothness when playing some high-definition videos.

All these factors may give potential buyers pause for thought, and hardware makers do not want to be left with a glut of tablet computers that they cannot shift.

"Originally we had a very aggressive plan to come out very early next year, but because of Surface, our research and development doesn't stop, but we are much more cautious," Acer president Jim Wong told Reuters. "Originally, our plan was the first quarter, but now I don't think it will be earlier than the second quarter," he added.

Hardware makers had also been caught on the hop by Microsoft's pricing. While most commentators observed that the Surface was pretty pricey – especially with the added cost of the innovative keyboard cover – Wong said that Acer had expected the Surface to be more expensive, providing an opportunity to drive sales by undercutting Microsoft.

In the UK, Microsoft is charging £399 for a 32GB entry-level device. That price does not include a keyboard cover, which will cost £100.

Acer's decision to put back the launch of a competitor to the Microsoft Surface follows comments in August from Wong to the Financial Times when he said that the Microsoft Surface would have "a huge negative impact for the [Windows] eco-system and other brands".

Wong also added that he did not expect Windows 8 to cause a particularly big boost to sales because it had been launched so late in the year. He estimated that it might contribute only an extra five per cent or 10 per cent to sales. 

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