Gianfranco Lanci is Acer’s softspoken, yet eloquent leader. Well, softspoken except for the whole Vista thing but he just said what we were all thinking. He’s a man who gives the impression, albeit subtly, that if he were playing a game of Hearts against the likes of Dell, HP, and Lenovo, he’d be the guy quietly shooting the moon, calculated risks and all.
I had the great pleasure to be invited to lunch with Lanci and six other American tech journalists in Madrid today at Acer’s Global Press Conference 2007 event. I asked him about his company’s plans for US-bound LCD TVs, UMPCs, and if the world would ever be treated to a fancy mobile device I referred to as "The aPhone."
Doug Aamoth: Your LCD monitors seem to be very popular with American consumers, especially price-conscious ones because they seem to be consistently priced lower than comparably-equipped monitors from other brands. Given the popularity of LCD TVs in the US and the fact that you already sell LCD TVs in Europe, do you have any plans to start selling Acer-brand LCD TVs in the US and, if so, will they carry the same low price points as your monitors and would they be branded as Acer or Gateway televisions?
Gianfranco Lanci: It’s something we’re considering. I don’t know whether we’ll come in at a low price point. It’d likely be a second-tier item, probably under the Acer brand.
DA: What are your thoughts about entering the Ultra Mobile PC market? Do you have any plans to sell UMPCs and would you sell them in certain regions or would it be a worldwide effort? Would you sell them under the Acer brand or maybe use the Gateway or even the Packard Bell name?
GL: Yes, we are planning on doing that but not until the technology is ready. The biggest barrier is battery life. You have three hours now, which is pointless. You might as well use a laptop. It would have to have seven to eight hours of battery life for it to work and it would have to replace your laptop. I don’t consider them to be Ultra Mobile PCs yet. I refer to them as Ultra Mobile “devices.” We will enter when the technology is ready and it will be done worldwide under the Acer brand. We have some R&D going on in Taiwan right now.
DA: Okay, so I asked about the LCD TVs and I asked about the UMPCs and now I’m going for the trifecta here. Can the world expect to see [dramatic pause] "The aPhone?!"
GL: No! (Smiles and makes a frantic slashing motion in the air, everyone laughs) Big no.
DA: Now, I don’t want to delve into your personal life too deeply but what kind of computer do you use on a day-to-day basis and what operating system does it run?
GL: A Dell. (Everyone laughs) Actually, I use a 12-inch notebook. A Travelmate. It’s thin and light and has a long battery life, which I need because I travel so much.
DA: Running Vista, right?
GL: (Smirking) Running XP Professional.
DA: So we know that Gateway has right of first refusal for buying Packard Bell and, when you acquired Gateway that right essentially became Acer’s. Have you actually purchased Packard Bell or is that something you’re waiting to do, say, next year? Is it a done deal?
GL: Yes. What happens is that there are many regulations and regulatory bodies, government regulations, EU regulations, and so forth that we have to work with over the next few months to get everything set up and we are in the middle of that process now. We just have to wait until the paperwork is finished.