Innovation That Matters: What’s Acer Got Up Its Sleeve for 2012?

REDMOND, Wash. — March 22, 2012 — Based out of Taipei, Taiwan, Acer is one of the largest PC makers in the world — and one of the longest tenured. Since the late 1970s, the company has focused on finding the right parts suppliers, finding the right software partners and designing all of its products with its customers in mind. As such, the company’s 35-year history of steady growth can be seen as an ongoing, ever-growing industry dialogue.

Sumit Agnihotry is vice president of product marketing for Acer’s Americas region, covering Canada to Argentina and everything in between. In that role he works to understand new industry trends, find suppliers who offer the best components at the best prices and connect those dots with what people really need their PCs to do.

It’s that last part, he says, that serves as Acer’s compass in designing and building a new product. “It’s critical that consumers are connected to the design,” he says. “Design has become one of the most important factors in the PC industry.”

It’s a factor that Acer’s engineers have taken to heart, and this year, the company might have another winner on their hands, with the new Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra laptops.

The Aspire Timeline Ultra laptops feature a magnesium-alloy, unibody chassis that looks sweet on top, inside and even underneath. Measuring a scant 20 millimeters thick, Acer has managed to squeeze a consistent eight hours of battery life out of a lightweight, high-performing PC that starts up from the press of a button in just five seconds — and awakens from sleep in 1.5 seconds.

Agnihotry says the M series is able to straddle that rare territory between a flagship product that has all the bells and whistles and a product that is accessible for mainstream users. Target customers for the M series are not just the niche or the early adopters, but also those going back to college, going back to school or who are just refreshing their old laptops.

“It’s for the consumers who are looking for a laptop that will meet their needs today but also anticipate the things they’ll be doing nine months to a year out,” Agnihotry says. “You are able to multitask, play premium video games and so on, but at the same time, it’s portable enough that you can take it with you at any time. Looking at that experience overall, we think it’s something that will become a must-have instead of nice-to-have today.”

Johnny Liu, senior director on the OEM engineering team at Microsoft, has worked with Acer’s product team on the M series from the early concept stage. He says Acer’s collaborative approach is a big part of what’s allowed the company to remain such a strong player in the industry for so long.

“Acer truly focuses on the consumer,” he says. “But it also works closely with other companies to improve the overall experience, finding the right partners to help it improve sound quality, connectivity and other features that really matter to people today.”

Liu says his team has spent years working together with Acer to improve performance in critical areas such as battery life and boot time, working closely to fine tune the Windows operating system with Acer’s circuitry.

“Based on a year-over-year analysis of its latest systems, we’ve seen great improvements in the machines shipping this year,” Liu says.

He says one big area of improvement has come from work the joint Microsoft and Acer team has done around what’s known as the BIOS Power-on-self-test, a check of the system’s hardware that every PC performs during startup. By fine-tuning the sequence specifically for Acer’s design, Liu’s team was able to help Acer optimize that process and get users into the actual operating system much faster than they normally would.

“Today Acer’s fastest system, the S series, is coming in around four seconds, down from about nine seconds as recently as last year. We’re collaborating on the M series to achieve similar results,” Liu says.-

Beyond their work in engineering, Liu says Microsoft and Acer act as a holistic team across the product lifecycle, meaning they also collaborate closely on product marketing and other efforts related to connecting PCs with the consumers and workers who ultimately use them.

“Not only do we need to help with engineering, but collectively we need to make sure our businesses are aligned, and our marketing drives as well,” he says. “Acer and Microsoft are working much more tightly than ever before to deliver the optimal experience for end users.”

In partnership with Microsoft, Acer plans to evolve its product lineup with innovations that build on new Windows 8 capabilities. Agnihotry says that touch is a great example of how Windows 8 innovation is shaping the new Acer lineup.

“I’m personally excited about the new capabilities in Windows 8 and the rich, immersive experiences it will enable for customers,” he says. “We have a full lineup of products that are being refreshed to take advantage of everything Windows 8 will offer.”

Agnihotry says Acer’s strategy remains the same: to deliver a great customer experience, which includes partnering with Microsoft to bring the latest PC innovations to Acer customers. With the M series laptops, he feels that Acer — in combination with partners such as Microsoft — will deliver on its strategy and bring a new brand of compelling PC experiences to address customer needs.

“The M series is the perfect storm of innovation,” he says. “It gives you the best of both worlds. It has the performance of laptops today, but in a thin, light, mobile package, with long battery life, at a price point that consumers can embrace.”

For more information on the Aspire Timeline Ultra and other Windows-based PCs from Acer, check out the slide show.