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30 April 2015

Billy MacInnesI wonder if this might turn out to be one of those ‘where were you when you heard JFK was shot?’ moments. For the record, I (like an awful lot of other people around here) wasn’t physically around when JFK was assassinated. I suppose I could qualify for the ‘where were you when Princess Diana died?’ or ‘when The Rolling Stones last made a decent album’ categories. Nowadays, of course, the answer to any similarly big question is likely to be “on twitter” or “on snapchat” because that seems to be where many people get their news nowadays.

Not me. Not in this instance at any rate. I was more old school, sitting at my computer, coasting the Internet, when I came across the following story about Acer. For the sake of accuracy, it was at somewhere around 12.35 on 29 April 2015. Sadly, that was five days after the initial report.

The story was remarkable for the following comment by Acer CEO John Chen to a group of reporters assembled at the top of the new World Trade Centre: “There are only four or five players in the PC industry,” he told them, “and all of us are survivors.” Nothing controversial about that. But he went on to add: “We will be the last man standing for the PC industry.”

Now that’s a pretty big claim. Especially when you consider that, according to Gartner, Chen’s company is fifth of the top five, behind Lenovo, HP, Dell and Asus. In addition, Acer’s market share is less than half that of HP or Lenovo and under 60% of Dell’s. Worse still, Acer’s market share declined in Q1 2015 compared to the same period the prevous year.

Not that you’d know this from Chen’s comments. He chose to concentrate, instead, on the company’s 80% increase in the business PC market share and to brag that Acer was selling more than 100,000 products “every single day”. While that sounds impressive, it’s obviously not that great if the company is losing overall market share in the process.

At the event, Chen made great play of Acer’s strength in the Chromebook market and emphasised a new focus on making products look “beautiful” and “sensational” but those two factors, in and of themselves, are hardly likely to shake the foundations of the likes of HP, Lenovo and Dell.

Bold claims generate headlines, of course. If Chen hadn’t said what he said, people might be talking less about the Acer event. But they also offer hostages to fortune.

At present, given the strength of the opposition, it’s hard to see exactly how Acer will end up as the last man standing in the PC industry. But then, perhaps, we’re looking at this the wrong way. Maybe instead of viewing Chen’s claim from the perspective of Acer having driven its competitors out of the PC market, it might become the last man standing in the PC industry because all the other companies in the top four have decided it’s not worth playing in it any more.

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