Stock - Paul Collins of Acer
Paul Collins of Acer MEA: "We are still in the midst of shortages, albeit reduced, which means that 2021 has still been a very good year..." Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: When it comes to consumer demand, tech brands will not have too many complaints to make of 2020. The work- and study-from-home made sure these brands could call in sufficient demand for the better part of last year.

This year, however, has been a bit of a wake-up to reality situation for global tech. Demand has subsided, and that was expected because it would have been difficult to repeat the bumper run of 2020. But the concerns over chip shortages is hitting all manufacturers and brands hard, whether it is selling a smartphone, a laptop or a gaming device.

Paul Collins, the MEA General Manager at the Taiwanese PC maker Acer, gives an insight into where the industry – and the brand – stands right now.

2020 was an exceptional year when it comes to consumers buying tech. Do you think it will be difficult to maintain those sort of levels?

Paul Collins: While it's undeniable that the pandemic revitalized the computer device market with work/learn and entertain from home becoming a new normal, this was also accompanied by major supply chain shortages and terrible logistics congestion. All major suppliers reacted and fed their major markets.

This meant that countries such as America and the European continent enjoyed the majority of supply in 2020. We are still in the midst of shortages, albeit reduced, which means that 2021 has still been a very good year for the industry. As normalcy returns in 2022, much catching up needs to happen in areas such as MEA, South America and the Asia-Pacific, which will mean that it should still offer robust opportunities.

Stock - Gitex 2021
The need for new hardware is still very much there, reckons Paul Collins of Acer. "Consumers are refreshing older devices with more premium products, gaming devices and home centres with monitors, accessories and furniture..." Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

But wasn’t all of the consumer buying consolidated into 2020?

PC: Not at all. For the first time since the arrival of the smartphone and Ipad, the PC has become a relevant device again. Consumers and businesses realise what technologies such as Zoom and specialized products can mean to their ability to access work opportunities, education and entertainment.

Consumers are refreshing older devices with more premium products, gaming devices and home centres with monitors, accessories and furniture. This is an evolving market and should carry on for the foreseeable future.

Brand Acer has always been about having a major presence in the consumer space rather than B2B. But within the consumer space, Acer’s share seems to have slipped in the last two years. Is it because you didn’t have that broader range available in these markets?

Acer has looked to verticalise many of our consumer offerings bringing specialization into our range to meet customer needs. We very proudly own the Predator brand, which is a go-to product in the massively growing gaming area. These products can command prices over Dh20,000 and we have more than healthy shares in that segment.

We have other brands such and Enduro Urban, a ruggedized tablet and laptop range for clients who follow active outdoor lifestyles, and Concept D, a product aimed at designers and creators, and our Chromebooks. Market share positions have been very difficult to maintain for any vendor since the beginning of 2020 due to supply chain constraints and this can be seen in wide fluctuations in the reports on a month-to-month basis.

For this reason, Acer has been focused on its verticalisation strategy aiming to supply and dominate particular market segments.

Your ‘Made for Humanity’ lineup – is this Acer’s attempt at a major brand reconnect?

PC: Acer has been committed to being a responsible corporate company for many years. It has been in our DNA since our launch of the first Chromebook, requiring far less technology and power to run than any other product at the time.

We have followed this with many initiatives, led from a corporate level such as meeting carbon emission reductions of 60 per cent in 2020 and being included in a list of the Top 100 most sustainably managed companies by The Wall Street Journal.

We felt that now was the right time to encapsulate these many CSR actions into a comprehensive strategy so that we could hold ourselves, and also be held accountable to these goals. It is true though that this does represent a refocus, as we have long recognized that we are not only a technology supplier but also a company that has an impact on all we come into contact with.

Earthion, which is a Acer’s initiative that stems from Project Humanity, is the culmination of our efforts. Earthion, represents Acer’s initiative to tackle environmental challenges, and also a platform that unites the strengths of our employees and supply chain partners, expanding the circle of impact of our sustainability efforts.

Do you reckon the brand itself needs a major refresh, now that the likes of a revitalized Vaio are again getting active?

PC: We have many sub-brands that dominate in their space. As the Acer holding brand, it is important to maintain what we stand for while evolving continually. We have been supplying technology for over 45 years and during that time we have seen the social demographic add Generation X, Y and Z to the babyboomers.

These groups all require different things from products and indeed the companies that supply them. In that, we continually evaluate and evolve our brand statement, with even products such as “device as a service” being rolled out now to meet the new trend of non-ownership being championed by Gen Y and Z.

Acer is a lifestyle brand, with products like the Predatorshot energy drink, e-scooters and ozone sanitisers amongst many offerings from the Acer stable.

Acer Vero, for example, is a lineup of ‘green’ PCs. From PCs to peripherals, Vero devices share certain green guidelines, such as utilizing post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic and shipping in recyclable packaging. As sustainability concerns not only how a product is made but what becomes of it, Acer’s Vero devices have also been designed to be easy to disassemble, simplifying the process of repairs or upgrades and ultimately increasing device lifespans.