Acer CEO J.T. Wang believes that ultrabooks will be the one product that returns the company to profitability. In an interview with Dow Jones Newswire, the chief said that customers will want a lighter and thinner notebook with longer battery life and that selling more ultrabooks will also help improve profit margins since ultrabooks command higher prices.
Acer surpassed Dell in 2009 in terms of PC shipments and things were looking bright for the company but the last several quarters haven’t been favorable. According to CNET, Acer shipped 9.7 million PCs worldwide last quarter, representing 10.6 percent of the market but putting them fourth behind HP, Dell and Lenovo. Acer’s shipments dropped 23.2 percent compared to the same time period last year.
Shipment declines have resulted in a sales drop of 23.34 percent over the last year – certainly not favorable for Acer. It remains to be seen if ultrabooks will be the turning point for the company but thus far, the thin notebooks haven’t delivered. The Acer Aspire S3 and Asus Zenbook UX31, two early ultrabook contenders, haven’t exactly broken sales records. CNET editor Scott Stein believes the reason is because ultrabooks are too similar to Apple’s MacBook Air.
"Any of these laptops are, first and foremost, MacBook Air-alikes," Stein said in October. "Yet, somehow, Apple's MacBook Air is a nothing-alike: it stands alone. It's earned that distinction, because it was the first kid on the block: the first Air debuted in January 2008. It's also the most likely laptop to be recognized out of a lineup by 10 random people on the street, by a long shot."
Acer expects to ship between 250,000 and 300,000 ultrabooks this quarter. Wang believes that the success of ultrabooks hangs on the price point: around $699.
The Acer Aspire S3 is 0.51 inches thin and weighs only 2.98 pounds. Its chassis is made from magnesium alloy and under the hood it packs an Intel Core i7 processor, a 20GB solid-state drive operating system and the machine’s current state, as well as a 320GB hard drive for storage. The S3's LED-backlit display offers a 1,366 by 768-pixel resolution and is driven by the CPU's integrated Intel HD graphics 3000 graphics processor.
The 13-inch MacBook Air models get a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-2637M processor, 4GB of RAM, and either 128GB or 256GB of flash storage for $1,299 or $1,599, respectively. Configure to order options include a 1.8 GHz Core i7-2677M processor and additional flash storage, but unfortunately no discrete graphics, only the built-in HD 3000 from Intel.
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