Acer, the world’s No. 5 PC maker by market share, has seen the pace of its orders slow as work-from-home demand wanes and computer makers face supply chain disruptions.
But Acer is working on a solution, says Jerry Kao, the company’s co-chief operating officer. Acer is aiming to bolster its environmental credentials by selling notebooks that are made from recycled materials and easier to repair.
The drag on demand for Acer’s PCs became clear in the second quarter this year following “relatively OK” income from January through March, Kao says. Preliminary consolidated revenues in the first quarter reached $2.6 billion, up 9.5% year on year. Acer has not yet released second-quarter data.
“Right now, demand is really sagging in all PC segments,” Kao said in an interview. “Q2 suddenly started to change—many issues, the war issue, the infection issues. I think all PC makers are still struggling.” Some upstream components have come late because they’re sourced in eastern China, he adds. Lockdowns earlier this year hit the major commercial hubs of Shenzhen and Shanghai.
The sudden surge in demand for PCs in 2020 and 2021, when home-bound consumers snapped up laptops for teleworking and online schooling, has eased across the industry, according to Kao and others.
Shipments of traditional PCs declined 5.1% in the first quarter, market research firm IDC says, as the sector was “coming off two years of double-digit growth.” IDC says vendors shipped more than 80 million PCs in the first three months of the year. War in Ukraine has disrupted the supply of semiconductors in part because two Ukrainian firms make lasers used in chip production.
Acer rode out global supply chain problems earlier this year because much of its production takes place in the western Chinese city Chongqing, which missed the scale of lockdowns in Shenzhen and Shanghai, Kao says.
The 45-year-old firm based in suburban Taipei ranked fifth in the global PC market share in the first quarter, according to IDC data. Lenovo came in first, followed by HP, Dell and Apple. Acer had run into financial trouble a decade ago due to management changes amid an increasingly competitive market. But the company was able to stage a comeback largely by designing Chromebooks and gaming PCs.
Acer launched its eco-friendly Aspire Vero line last year to get a “relatively better” position against competitors who are making similar PC models, Kao says.
Vero laptops use post-consumer recycled materials in its casing and keycaps, according to Acer. As much as 85% of the packaging is recycled paper. The series began with three notebooks plus all-in-ones and peripherals such as keyboards. The PCs are easy to dissemble and repair, meaning they can be fixed rather than thrown out in favor or new ones, Kao says. Vero models sell online for $600 upward.
“You want something unique, then we pop out,” Kao says. “We spend most of our efforts now highlighting those competitive advantages that others don’t have.”