Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Dec 21, 2002
Corporate - Outlook
Acer bets on TabletPC to make new dents
BANGALORE, Dec. 20
ACER, one of the first vendors to collaborate with Microsoft for the TabletPC that recognises handwriting and voice, is hoping that the product will help it make dents in markets so far inaccessible to it.
With competitors such as IBM and Dell absent in this segment, the company expects to make a breakthrough in some of "blue book" or "global account" customers. "These are the companies which buy from the same vendor for their offices worldwide," said Mr S. Rajendran, GM Marketing. They have also traditionally been difficult accounts for other companies to break through.
The Travelmate TabletPC is targeted at the CEOs and CXOs and a "mindshare of the top guy could have a percolation effect for other products," said Mr Rajendran.
In India, the company is getting 30-40 enquiries per day from serious buyers for the TabletPC, he said. In the last 20-odd days that the product has been in the market, around 25 of the over 100 demos have turned into sales.
Orders have come from Reliance, Infosys, as well as travel agents, a designer from Ahmedabad, and "one person in the filmi world in Chennai", according to Mr Rajendran. Does that mean the TabletPC's "intuitiveness" is attracting non-traditional notebook users too?
Mr Rajendran does not think so. The price is a barrier, he feels. Acer's machine is priced around Rs 1.6 lakh and ``it is unlikey to become a mass-market product." The TabletPC is expected to replace the higher end "ultra portable" notebook. In fact, Acer plans to phase out the ultra portable, which was targeted at the top management.
Acer's TravelMate TabletPC comes with a rotatable screen, which the company has patented. The standard notebook screen can be folded over to double up as scribbling pad for the tablet. A stylus is used to write on the harder than normal LCD screen. Data can be stored both as a handwritten document as well as in text form. The stylus also contains buttons for conventional left and right mouse clicks.
The two-in-one model is one up on some of the competitors who are offering pure tablets, Mr Rajendran said. TravelMate comes with ports for a digital handicam, modem, ethernet and offers a smart card security feature.
The machine recognises speech and converts and stores speech as text. Potential customers are expected to be those doing collaborative work, legal professionals, medical professionals, and those engaged in research.
Very close to normal writing on paper, the system also offers a "sticky notes" feature. Users can make reminders that get "pasted" on the text.
Both Microsoft and Acer predict that in 18 months time, most notebooks will have a standard tablet OS.
Awareness levels need to be heightened, said Mr Rajendran. Microsoft is expected to do a lot of publicity campaigning for its OS.
In the second quarter, the TabletPC is expected to be available in Intel's Banias platform, Mr Rajendran said.
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