Right after Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich tossed PCs under the bus with his announcement of a massive layoff at Intel, Acer’s CEO Jason Chen effectively stood up on stage and said “Bullshit”. The thing is that with hundreds of millions of PCs in market, while sales are down all of the reasons folks had to explain the decline of PCs have evaporated. Windows Vista and Windows 8 are gone, and the iPad is on life support. Yes there are a few people replacing PCs with phones and iPad Pros but the Microsoft Surface is far more successful, and if you want a phone that does PC work really there is only one phone that does that and that is a Windows 10 phone with Continuum.
Acer didn’t miss a meeting. It stood up with a very Apple-like presentation showcasing it is on top of this, and that it is accelerating on a PC path even though competitors like HP are divesting from it. I think Acer is right. What PCs need are passion and Acer dished up a ton of it this week.
Let’s talk about that this week.
Why The PC Is Failing
I argue that the PC is failing largely because folks are not doing demand generation and pouring in passion like they once did. Products like Microsoft Surface that are heavily marketed sell just fine, most PCs aren’t marketed at all so no wonder folks aren’t buying them. People don’t have the money to buy everything and will tend to buy things they might want that companies successfully convince them to buy. So even though cars can last over 10 years, a critical number of folks buy new ones every 2 or 3 years, and TVs that can last over 10 years now—and were on an 8-year refresh cycle—are being refreshed by many every 4 years thanks to that industry marketing things like 3D and 4K.
Other than Microsoft Surface, what was the last PC ad you’ve seen?
That’s the problem.
One of the things we are missing this decade is Steve Jobs. He was the one CEO who would personally pitch his products as almost personal offerings. Taking a direct interest in his core products, he often convinced us that products were amazing and magical and, as a result, he became the CEO of last decade. I think Tim Cook is slowly coming around to the idea that he needs to take a personal interest in Apple’s products, but he is on the PC is dead track and appears to be killing his PCs in favor of products like the iPad Pro. And let’s add that iPhones are starting to drift in the wrong direction at the moment.
Even Lenovo, which tried to recreate Steve Jobs with Ashton Kutcher, has Kutcher on phones and not even on tablets anymore. The PC market needs a CEO who will personally step up and pitch PCs as if he personally believes in their future.
Acer’s CEO Steps Up
If you watch Acer’s latest launch (check out the video) you’ll see an impressive number of Apple elements. Yes clearly Acer doesn’t have the presentation budget Apple has, and English is clearly not a first language but, you do see the passion, rehearsal, and staging consistent with an Apple launch. You know there is a book on how to do this (How To Present Like Steve Jobs), and the guy who wrote it is a friend of mine (Carmine Gallo) who consults on presentations like this so it wouldn’t surprise me to find the book was used to stage this and he was used as a consultant.
The most compelling products that were launched that support this idea that the PC isn’t dead were a Windows 10 Phone package with full Continuum hardware. This is the first phone package that can give you a Windows PC in your pocket. In addition Acer launched a Surface like 2-in-1 product with gaming performance using a unique liquid cooling solution. One of the most attractive products it showcased was a high performance MacBook-like notebook without the tradeoffs and at about half the price. Finally it launched two full on gaming VR-ready products, a cool small form factor desktop and a damned big laptop with full NVIDIA graphics.
But it wasn’t just the power of the products that made this interesting, it was the direct involvement of Acer’s CEO who seemed to have a personal love for his products almost as if they were his own children. This is one of the things that I miss about Jobs—was this personal interest in the things his firm created and the sense that he personally assured what resulted.
I think that’s what this industry needs people who have passion for PCs.
The problem with the PC market is a lack of passion. People are passionate about drones and self-driving cars—and the opportunities there, though small, are growing. But the PC market is massive and it just lacks excitement. We need more people like Jason Chen who will put energy and personal passion into this segment if we want it to be as powerful as it could be. We may have lost Steve Jobs but Acer showcased today that other firms can pick up the flag and carry it to the goal and suddenly Acer is a company to watch. Check out the video, does that look like it came from a dead industry? No, it looks like one that is came from an industry that just needs someone to breath passion into it again.
Nice, Jason Chen! Congratulations on a nicely done launch, Acer!