Acer is now planning a dual-screen, 10-finger multitouch Android 3.0 tablet that will later join the Windows 7 and Android 2.2 tablets unveiled at an Acer press conference on Tuesday. What’s more, the gadgets will all sport the same newly announced ClearFi interface for crossplatform content sharing, but the sharing will work on Acer devices only.
I was there at the global launch in New York City to hear about Acer’s mobile device strategy for the years going forward, and to get a bit of hands-on experience with whatever new products ended up getting shown that day.
During a formal press conference, Acer officially announced not just the anticipated Windows 7 10-inch tablet – which is already enabled with two screens and 10-finger gesturing – but also single-screen Android 2.2 tablets in 10-, 7-, and 5-inch versions.
Just afterward, the vendor delivered demos on the display floor, including sneak peeks at an upcoming Revo home multimedia server and an accompanying dedicated remote unit also supportive of multitouch.
While priding itself on technical innovation, Acer also recognizes that different users want different types of devices. A user’s gadget picks are expressions of “personality,” Acer officials said, during a presentation delivered on a mock runway in a refurbished warehouse.
Acer – a vendor now hovering around the top of worldwide PC market share – resembles a supermodel in some ways, suggested Smartphone Unit President Aymar de Lencquesaing. Acer is both “happy” and “hungry,” he said.
Going forward, Acer intends to release a wide range of mobile devices such as tablets and phones, and to provide common multimedia content across all Acer devices through ClearFi, according to Gianfranco Lanci, president of Acer.
More specifically, ClearFi will act as the basis for both a new downloadable multimedia content center and a cloud-based offering for storing your personal files online.
During a press Q&A, Gianpiero Morbello, corporate VP of marketing and brand, acknowledged that – initially, at least – users of new Acer gizmos won’t be able to share personal files stored in Acer’s cloud with friends and family members who don’t own Acer devices.
Speaking with me later, Jim Wong, Acer’s global president for IT products, described Acer’s ClearFi as a software abstraction layer that will run on top of multiple OS on Acer’s hardware.
Dual-screen tablet for Windows 7 first, Android 3.0 later
John Miedema, senior product manager for notebooks in Acer Europe Services, told me that Acer’s growing army of mobile devices will also include a 10-inch double-screen Android tablet much like the Windows 7 tablet launched on Tuesday.
This still unannounced Android device will likewise support “full” hand gesturing. Acer, though, will wait until Android OS 3.0 before moving ahead with this particular Android alternative, Miedema said.
In my hands-on with the Windows 7 dual-screen tablet, the product turned out to be nothing if not innovative, although I can’t say it’s well suited to all purposes.
First impressions: Acer Iconia
Yet you can also display and use a soft QWERTY keyboard – or any other supported app – on the second screen.
Miedema contended that although Toshiba also produces the Libretto W100, a dual-screen, multitouch-enabled tablet, Toshiba’s only works with gestures using two fingers or less.
In contrast, Acer’s “full” hand gesturing supports gestures involving up to ten fingers, along with the palm. Through a built-in, software-based scroll wheel, you can even create your own gestures.
Miedema also showed me some of the other built-in multitouch-capable apps that Acer plans to ship with the Iconia, including the Social Jogger Portal, for viewing feeds and Twitter from FaceBook and Twitter on one of the two screens, and My Journal Web Clipboard, for capturing clips from Web sites with your fingers.
Although I didn’t have time on Tuesday to start learning how to invent new gestures, I played around with some of the more standard types of gestures, pinching content to push it around on the two screens, and double-clicking with a single finger to expand a window.
A handwriting recognition app figured out the meaning of my scrawl right away. When I printed the word “shell,” it came up with about 15 possible interpretations, but “shell” headed the list.
While the software and gesturing environment worked smoothly, I couldn’t help but notice that this tablet seems heavy when you pick it up. Indeed, the Iconia weighs in at 2.7 pounds, he said.
I was also a little concerned about breakage over the long haul, even though the senior product manage assured me the Iconia will be made of the same sort of material already used in Apple’s iPhone 4, for instance.
I noticed that Acer has opted to leave out some ports, such as the SD slot that appears on the new Android 2.2 tablet. Miedema explained that Acer made this decision due to the amount of space taken up by the second glass panel.
To me, the Iconia seems to make more sense as a portable home-based gaming machine, or a desktop PC replacement device, than as a gadget you’d take along on a lot of business trips, or tote back and forth from school.
Also on the way: Dual-mode remote for home multimedia server
I checked out some of the other new gizmos, as well. Acer’s new 5-inch Android tablet doubles as a phone, noted Acer’s Jacki Tsai, during another demo Slots include a spot for a SIM chip. (In the demo, though, Acer showed the 5-incher running on Wi-Fi only.)
Also, unlike some of their rivals, which come with Android 2.1 but await 2.2 upgrades, Acer’s 5-, 7- and 10-inch single-screen Android tablets will ship with Froyo pre-loaded.
In addition, any of Acer’s newly announced tablets, whether for Android or Windows, can also be used as a remote control unit for Acer’s upcoming Revo multimedia server, although Acer’s dedicated remote for Revo is really one-of-a-kind. The multimedia server and dedicated remote are the latest additions to Acer’s expanding family of Revo multimedia hardware.
Like the Windows 7 tablet, the dedicated wireless remote also supports both multitouch gestures and a software QWERTY keyboard. On the pint-sized remote, you can’t run these two interfaces simultaneously. But you can quickly flip a switch to move back and forth from one mode to the other.
Actually, the Revo multimedia player and its dedicated remote are already shipping in parts of Europe. But the two products are still unannounced for the US, and they got their first official showing on this side of the Atlantic at the press conference on Tuesday.
Acer will release its four newly announced tablets in Europe, too, but US shipment is expected to follow in the second quarter of 2011. Meanwhile, Acer will also shop the gadgets around to US wireless carriers, Acer officials said during the press Q&A.