Acer unveils consumer electronics push at 20th anniversary

The Acer Group is signalling its readiness to start a foray into the consumer electronics market, showing off a bevy of new products scheduled for shipment later this year and in 1997.

Taiwan's leading PC maker, the Acer Group, is signalling its readiness to start its foray into the global consumer electronics market, showing off a bevy of new products scheduled for shipment later this year and in 1997.

At a celebration here of the 20th anniversary of the company's founding in 1976, Acer head Stan Shih said that "information appliances" are ready to lead a "second home activity revolution", following the television revolution.

"I believe information appliances are going to change our daily lives, so we don't want to miss this opportunity," says Shih.

In the near future, homes will be equipped with multiple information devices, many of which will be priced from US$200 to US$1000, and will come in different sizes and shapes -- often capable of presenting interactive multimedia content, he says.

To differentiate such products from its core PC business, Acer is placing all such information appliances under its consumer electronics products umbrella.

Consequently, "for Acer, 1997 will be the year of consumer electronics", says Shih.

Although the company is serious about becoming a major player in the consumer field, Acer still expects its core PC business to remain its main revenue-earner, officials say.

By the year 2000, consumer electronics products are expected to make up 15% of Acer's total revenue, says Shih. In 1995, total Acer Group revenues reached over US$5.8 billion.

The company is showing off prototypes of several such devices that will be launched later this year and in 1997, including the following:

--The AcerVista, the company's first television set, is a widescreen TV model based on a 28in picture tube, which also is capable of displaying VGA graphics off a PC at resolutions up to 640 x 480 pixels. Acer will start selling the TV in Taiwan next month, followed by rollouts in international markets in the next few months, says KY Lee, president of Acer Peripherals, the Acer Group member company that developed the television.

--In September, the company will launch its first game console, the x86-based AcerEden, which was developed in co-operation with Japan's Hitach, officials say. Designed to be connected to either a television set or PC monitor, AcerEden is built around standard PC architecture and will be capable of playing some existing PC game and education CD-ROM titles. In addition, Acer is currently developing native titles in-house as well as talking to third-party game developers. The first-generation model will be powered by 486-class processors, and retail at around US$299, says Simon Lin, head of Acer's information products business unit. In the future, Acer also plans to release AcerEden models with built-in modems that also will function as Internet-access devices, similar to Apple's Pippin-based architecture, officials says.

-- The Acer Kids PC is targeted at children aged from three years and up and is planned for release by year's end with a US$199 pricetag, says Lin. Designed to use a TV set as its display, Acer Kids PC will be based on a single chip, utilising the 386SX processor technology Acer licensed from Intel earlier this year.

--By 1997, Acer also plans to introduce a Digital Versatile Disk (DVD) player, which will be able to play both MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 titles authored for the forthcoming disk media standard that is expected to replace today's audio CD and video CD standards. Code-named AcerDave, the DVD player will be the centerpiece in Acer's "Home Entertainment Centre", which also will include an AC-3 processor-based surround sound system and power amplifier.

--Also by 1997, Acer plans to introduce a set-top box for accessing interactive television services. The company showcased a set-top box prototype featuring a CD-ROM drive. Further details about the product were not available.

--In addition, Acer also will enter the digital mobile phone hand-set market with the AcerGSM, officials say. Based on the Global Standard for Mobile Communications digital standard, the hand-set will be rolled out in worldwide markets by next year.

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