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New VC Firm Happens Right Under Our Nose

When was the last time you talked about Acer? Never? Me too. The company, which is the fourth largest PC maker in the world by the way, announced the Acer Aspire R7 this morning. It’s a mighty morphing Windows 8 portable. Like the Lenovo Yoga, it features versatile hinges that allow the computer to take different forms.

The Aspire R7 is not the next big thing. No one is going to buy this thing. But that’s probably just fine.

The Acer Aspire R7 is a halo device. It’s an attention grabber. It’s advertising in the form of product. It’s Acer’s proof to the other big players and startups alike that the company can still hang. It’s designed to sit pretty in the showroom window and entice buyers to come inside to the dealership. It is, in automotive terms, the Chevy Corvette of Acer’s lineup.

Dealerships prominently position the Corvette outside their doors. It’s not around back with the Chevy Econoboxes. It’s right out front. It draws attention. It gets buyers near the door and talking about the brand. It will never outsell the Impala. In fact it’s designed to help sell the Impala.

Expect to see the Acer Aspire R7 on electronic store retailers’ end-caps and nowhere else. Just maybe, with this hot portable occupying prime real estate in Best Buy, more buyers will view Acer as a serious computer company rather than a list of competitive specs available at good price.

Every company produces these high-end products to get the blood moving again. Remember the Dell Adamo XPS? That $2,200 netbook was once displayed at CES on a turntable protected by a bulletproof cube of glass. It was “technically” available for sale, but Dell didn’t expect it to sell en masse. Sony had the uber-high end Qualia line from 2003 to 2005. With prices ranging from $1,400 (MiniDisc player) to $25,000 (SXRD video projector), these products were more of a design exercise than legitimate push into the upper echelon of consumer electronics.

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Back to Acer.

The company’s Wikipedia page says it best: Acer sells “inexpensively-targeted” computer electronics. The products are available from nearly every retailer. Acer is, in short, the Lee Jeans of computer: They’re perfectly acceptable, available at Walmart but not a brand that generates excitement.

Now there’s the Acer Aspire R7. The Internet is excited about this computer. Gizmodo says they’re not ready for its level of crazy. But crazy is good. Crazy gets attention. And crazy sells.

Acer is losing marketshare. The company was the second most prolific computer maker in 2009, second to only HP in global sales. It ended 2012 in fourth place, after HP, Lenovo, and Dell. Worse yet, sales and shipments are still trending down.

The consumer marketplace has changed a lot since Acer was near the top. Like Giz said, we’re not ready for the R7’s radical design. But I for one can’t wait to see what else the firm is capable of producing. I would be totally on board with a similar Windows 8 computer albeit one that’s a touch less crazy. And now I’m looking to Acer to provide that where I wouldn’t have even considered the company before.

Oh, and Acer did announce new lower-end notebooks today. Engadget covered them. They’re good, but nothing exciting — which is just about right for Acer.