If you're in the market for a new tablet and find the idea of the Surface RT or other tablet that runs Microsoft's tablet operating system intriguing, the best advice is to hold that thought, until the end of May anyway. Acer, one of the world's top five PC makers, has revealed that it has no current plans to embrace said operating system and will wait until the software is updated before making a decision, choosing to focus on Android and on the full Windows operating system in its latest mobile devices launched this weekend.
The company showcased a number of new devices in New York including a cut-price Android-powered tablet, the 7.9-inch Iconia A1, expected to make waves at least in the short term. At $169, the device is the cheapest branded Android tablet currently available by some $30. Though clearly a budget device that can compete directly with the cheapest slabs on the market, it runs Android version 4.2, has a quad-core processor, a 4:3 ratio display (like the iPad), 8GB internal storage (plus SD expansion slot) and promises a seven-hour battery life.
Another device unveiled in New York was the Acer Aspire P3, an ultrabook powerful enough to be used as a primary computer that transforms into a tablet and that runs Windows 8. "Customers are moving to a touch-centric way of computing for most of their everyday tasks, such as web browsing, checking email, and entertainment," said Sumit Agnihotry, vice president of product marketing, Acer America. "The new Acer Aspire P3 Ultrabook makes touch computing even more powerful by providing customers with the responsive performance, fast boot times, and long battery life they want in a mobile PC. Plus, the form factor of the Acer P3 adds the productivity to ensure all-day usefulness beyond the fun in tablet mode." And, at $799.99 it is priced to compete directly with Microsoft's own Surface Pro hybrid tablet. However, unlike the Surface, the Aspire comes with its transformable keyboard as standard, rather than as a $130 cost option.
At the weekend event Acer president Jimmy Wong also revealed that although Acer had developed a tablet that used the RT operating system, it has so far decided against releasing it, preferring instead to focus on areas and operating systems where the company thinks there is serious interest -- namely Android and full Windows devices. The company believes that the operating system will help to drive demand for hybrid devices that can be used as notebooks and tablets and that respond to touch and to keystrokes, but stated that "To be honest, there's no value doing the current version of RT."
Developed to compete directly with Android and Apple's iOS as a mobile operating system for low-powered devices, Windows RT and the devices it powers, such as the Microsoft Surface RT, have failed to excite consumers. As well as being limited in performance, there are very few apps available on the platform (50,000 versus 700,000 for the iPad). Samsung has withdrawn its Windows RT devices from all non-Asian markets and Dell and Lenovo have recently slashed the prices of their RT tablet lines. Aware of the criticism, Microsoft is expected to showcase a new, improved version of the OS at its BUILD conference later this month but until then, many of Microsoft's partner firms are looking to cut their losses.