As the tablet PC approaches its first anniversary, sales of the new computer format at Acer Inc have fallen well short of original targets, the company's president Wang Chen-tang (
"We have sold over 100,000 tablet PCs which is 5 percent of our original 2 million target, so we are not very satisfied," Wang told the Taipei Times at a press conference yesterday.
A lackluster marketing effort by international computer companies is to blame for the poor performance, Wang said, as he challenged his competitors to do more.
"Most PC players don't really believe the tablet PC will be a killer product," he said. "I believe the tablet is a priority product that has killer potential."
Launched last November, tablet PCs -- which can convert handwriting and voice to text and allows users to make notes on documents like a traditional pen and paper -- have failed to impress consumers.
Until the end of June, only 255,189 units had been sold globally, according to statistics from research firm International Data Corp (IDC). That represents less than 2 percent of all portable computers sold. Wang wants that figure to be 20 percent, but IDC said that won't happen before 2007.
Wang also criticized software giant Microsoft Corp, developer of the tablet PC, for not doing enough to promote the new style of computer.
Microsoft joined Acer at yesterday's press conference to announce a new media campaign to revive interest in tablets.
"The tablet PC is part of Microsoft's mobility platform which is very important for us," said Microsoft Taiwan general manager Eunice Chiu (
"We have invested a lot of money in this program," she said.
Microsoft plans to increase its total budget for research and development from US$5 billion this year to US$6.8 billion next year, and the tablet PC is one of the "key focuses" in its research, a statement released at the press conference said.
Taiwan's hardware manufacturers are a critical link in turning the tablet PC's software into tangible products, Chiu said. From 21 tablet PC hardware partners last year, Microsoft is now working with 34 mostly Taiwanese firms.
"We're very proud that over 50 percent of our hardware partners are here in Taiwan," Chiu said. "The Taiwanese are very strong in flat screens and digital products. Acer is No. 3 in the world for tablet PCs."
But industry observers have complained that tablet PCs are simply too expensive and do not offer enough extras to justify a price tag that is around NT$20,000 higher than traditional notebook computers.
Wang pledged to close that gap.
"We want consumers to consider when they are buying a notebook computer that by adding an extra NT$7,000 they can obtain all the functions of a tablet PC," he said.
An IDC survey of 800 consumers conducted last year when the tablet was launched found that they also wanted TV and video functions on their new computers, but they may have to wait longer to get them as Microsoft and Acer did not announce any new multimedia features on upcoming tablet PCs.
For its part, Microsoft is incorporating "digital ink" or handwriting and note-making functions to all new software, including Office XP, Office 2003, One Note and Messenger.
The specialist One Note software is also expected to add audio notes that can be recorded and added to documents as a loudspeaker icon that plays when clicked.