updated 09:00 am EDT, Thu September 9, 2010
Acer chief thinks of iPad and iPhone as plagues
Apple's products are "mutant viruses" that need to be cured, Acer's creator Stan Shih claimed to reporters late Wednesday. Shih saw Steve Jobs' insistence on revolutionary hardware as creating rampant but short-term growth for devices like the iPad and iPhone. While initially successful, the approach would eventually be defeated by competition that "evolves naturally" and becomes "immune" to the Apple effect, the executive insisted.
He trotted out the repeated example of the Mac and implied that it was marginalized in a similar process. Supporting an "open" platform like Windows helped competitors evolve to be larger than Apple. A similar effect happened with VHS versus Sony's in-house Betamax format, Shih said. The executive assumed Android was having a similar result and would help "isolate" Apple.
He didn't have an answer for why the iPod is still the dominant media player despite being a closed infrastructure. Microsoft had tried to insist that its device-independent PlaysForSure DRM and media standards would overtake the iPod and pointed to many manufacturers that supported it, but it eventually failed out and led Microsoft to kill the approach in favor of the more iPod-like Zune platform. He also didn't address issues that affected Apple's performance with the Mac, such as its leadership during Jobs' absence.
Shih was still kind to Apple and paradoxically claimed that its tightly integrated hardware and software model was something to build on, despite it being based on the same closed system he disliked. Taiwanese companies like Acer were focusing too much on hardware and not enough on software. It needed a "culture of innovation" that didn't exist yet, he said.
He wrapped his views with a belief that US PC builders would eventually disappear. American companies are used to living on bigger profit margins than those in Taiwan, and so they may decide to switch over to services rather than produce hardware. Acer's founder nonetheless warned that those in his home country needed to add worth to avoid being completely commoditized and replaceable. Such results aren't likely to come in the future, as Apple is the only one not slowing down notebook orders where even Acer has had to throttle back demand.