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“This is not a joke for us”: Acer seeks new ground to disrupt enterprise

The consumer market is well acquainted with Acer. Its inexpensive laptops and PCs, not to mention smartphones and tablets in more recent times, have shifted significant volumes from its native Asia to Europe, America and beyond.

But at the company’s press gathering in Amsterdam this week, Acer representatives seemed to have grown tired, almost agitated with its reputation as hardware also-rans, and outlined the firm’s strategy for expansion and elevation. At the heart of this will be an aggressive drive on the business space - somewhere the company has operated for some time, but with little distinction.

"We're here to create growth for Acer in the B2B market. This is not a joke for us," said Jakob Jersild Olsen, Vice President of Acer's Commercial Division for EMEA. "We are very strong today in consumer, but commercial is really an area where we can grow a lot."

"We've invested in the products, the programmes and the people. It's not cheap and we are very serious about it," Olsen added.

The Taiwanese firm believes it can use its standing in consumer as an effective launch pad for success in the enterprise by harnessing the growing trend of consumerisation – whereby ostensibly consumer-focused products make the transition to corporate environments.

"I think consumerisation has been a buzz word for two or three years - maybe longer than that - but it's here already. Consumerisation is done," Olsen said. As such, with a few enterprise-friendly tweaks and security enhancements, Acer's large portfolio of notebooks, tablets and phones for the home may soon be looked at more favourably by businesses.

"Our SMB customers are no longer looking for a four kilo chunky laptop for their office," said Olsen. "They want the same sleek notebook they have at home, and we want to offer them exactly that." Right on cue, Olsen pulled the cloak back on three new additions to Acer's TravelMate P series of notebooks, before unveiling the TravelMate X313 convertible Ultrabook too.

"I seriously doubt you can find many of our competitors with a similar line-up," Olsen boasted, taking a swipe at former employers which include enterprise giant HP. "They don't, because I've worked for quite a few of them."

But Acer knows it will take a lot more than new hardware to convince the industry of its credentials away from consumer markets. That's why the firm also announced a fresh assault on education at its Amsterdam conference, with a new partnership with Intel set to being specially-designed software features to classrooms across the world.

Running on a host of Acer devices, the Intel Education Software (IES) suite will include interactive digital textbooks, the camera-based science exploration app Lab Camera, data analysis programs, the ArtRage digital painting app, and a range of other collaborative classroom solutions.

"Acer has been strong in education for a long time, and it's in our DNA," proclaimed Olsen, who also outlined the company's link-up with European Schoolnet, which sees Acer work with ministries of education across the continent to improve technological facilities in the classroom and beyond. Things are covered commercially too, as Olsen said 300 resellers had been secured to focus on delivering Acer services to the education market.

The number of distributors will be irrelevant, however, if resellers fail to reverse a worrying trend for manufacturers that has seen slow Windows 8 uptake add to the downfall of the PC.

Walter Depper, Senior Corporate Vice President of Acer's business division, acknowledged the "challenges" facing Acer's new product line which, like so many, relies on Microsoft's under-performing platform. The OS "started slowly," he said, "so we need to work to bring the full benefit of Windows 8 to the end user. That's work we need to look into."

But the company was keen to portray a prevailing sense of optimism despite difficulties brought in the changing tech landscape. Olsen finished his presentation by throwing a positive light on Acer's current lack of standing in the business sphere by describing the room it presented for growth, and how its consumer portfolio can spearhead a charge on the lower end of the enterprise.

"To put it simply, where we come from is consumer strength, and we do okay on commercial. This is our time. This is Acer's time to take hold of consumerisation and ride the wave into SMB and be very, very strong."