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Acer unveils five touch devices and a store

Acer announced a series of touch-oriented devices this week, as well as an accompanying cloud media offering, recognizing that much of the hoped-for g

By PETER WHITE

Published: 25 November, 2010

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Acer announced a series of touch-oriented devices this week, as well as an accompanying cloud media offering, recognizing that much of the hoped-for growth in tablets will be driven by integrated services. The firm is not taking sides in the debates about tablet formats, and is covering all its bases, unveiling Android devices in 7-inch and 10-inch varieties (and a smartphone), a 10-inch Windows slate, plus a dual-screen Windows notebook with touch display.

All the products will ship early next year, with the Windows slate coming first, in February, followed by the other models in April. The most innovative is the Iconia Touchbook, which follows the Toshiba Libretto in offering a two-screen laptop, with a touch display in place of a physical keyboard.

Amid all the discussions of whether netbooks, tablets, cloudbooks or other form factors will win out, CEO Gianfranco Lanci believes more options will emerge, rather than the market converging around just one or two. That is because of the increasing variety of uses for mobile data and the shift from using computers for content creation to content consumption.

However, it seems clear that tablets will eat into the market for netbooks, a sector where Acer has been powerful. Research from IDC forecasts that netbooks sales will fall by 2% this year, and will shrink more quickly from 2011. Acer’s challenge now is to compensate by gaining similar share in tablets or other new form factors, but this will be tough. Although it has released some attractive and well regarded Android smartphones, its brand is associated with PCs rather than mobile products, while most of the tablet headlines are going to the handset makers.

Another design that is proving popular among PC makers – though not making major waves among consumers – is the five-inch mini-tablet, which sits between a handset and tablet. The Dell Streak led the way and Hewlett-Packard is expected to announce a similar device from its Palm stable. Acer said its new product, which actually measures 4.8-inches, will have "the soul of a tablet" combined with the capabilities of a smartphone (such as portability and voice). Features include support for Javascript and Flash, and a fast browser that does not require web pages to be resized or adjusted.

And of course, no mobile device launch is complete without an app store and, with the emergence of cloud-focused tablets, a cloud service. Acer opened the Alive store, a single point to buy apps for netbooks, PCs, smartphones and tablets running Android or Windows. It will be available first in the UK and Italy before year end and will then be rolled out widely in the first quarter of next year.

The main difference from most mobile shopfronts is that purchases are stored in the cloud and can be accessed from any browser. This multi-platform activity is also supported by an option called cloud-fi, a cloud-based media sharing service that distributes content among any clear.fi devices.

As for the Android tablets, the 10-inch model is powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 2 processor and supports full 1080p HD resolution and HDMI output, plus front and rear cameras. The 7-inch version runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon.

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