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Acer Africa pins hopes on Google cable for Chrome Enterprise growth

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 16 Apr 2021
Acer Africa GM and consumer lead Glenn Du Toit.
Acer Africa GM and consumer lead Glenn Du Toit.

Acer Africa says it has seen tremendous growth in demand for its devices in SA over the past year and believes Google's Equiano cable project will fuel more demand for its Chrome Enterprise portfolio, powered by Google.

The Taiwanese multinational PC corporation’s laptop and PC portfolio includes Spin and Swift (high-end), Travelmate (remote working), Chromebook (integrated with Google’s operating system), and the Nitro, Predator and Predator Triton (targeted at gamers).

It says while the COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled demand for its devices across its consumer and business channels, as a result of the increase in work-from-home and e-learning trends, its Google Chrome portfolio has not enjoyed as much demand.

The PC maker says it aims to maximise the opportunities presented by Google's Equiano cable project, to increase local demand.

Equiano is Google's third independent undersea network cable, which the company says will shuttle high-speed data from Portugal to SA and countries in between, starting this year.

The fibre-optic project is part of Google's $47 billion investment, over the last three years, in the search giant’s computing infrastructure, which is expected to provide high-speed computing power estimated to be 1 200 times the maximum speed of average PCs.

Among its benefits, the cable is expected to send a continuous stream of connectivity and boost its various service offerings, which include Google Cloud, the Chrome operating system, Chromebook devices, Google workspace, Google Meet, etc.

In a telephonic interview with ITWeb, Acer Africa GM and consumer lead Glenn Du Toit explained the company’s strategy has evolved over the years from being an end-user-focused company to being a diversified PC maker that focuses on government, SMEs and more recently larger enterprises.

“Google's Equiano cable project is expected to open up Google’s services in the enterprise environment, so we are foreseeing that we will start to see Chrome as an operating system becoming more viable and more readily accepted locally,” notes Du Toit.

“Acer is one of the dominant players in Chrome globally and as a business, we have really massive market shares in various parts of the world in terms of Chrome devices. These are devices which have not seen much demand in SA, and if we do start seeing this gaining traction as a result of the project, it puts Acer in a strong position to fulfil that need in the market.”

While Chrome devices are not as popular as competitor Microsoft Edge devices, and don’t compete on the same level as Microsoft, Du Toit points out the company projects it will start seeing growth in the Chrome Workspace device platform and in the Chromebook portfolio within the next few years.

Maintaining COVID-19 bubble

Acer has almost 4 500 partners that are supplied through its reseller base, with three distributors that focus on the SA market: Mustek, Tarsus Distribution and Rectron.

Asked how big Acer’s market share is in SA, Du Toit hesitates to respond, saying the firm has seen “remarkable growth” and is currently focusing on increasing its partner network nationwide.

“We believe we need to focus on expanding our nationwide distribution and open up business opportunities as we are not the major player locally.

“I would like to see us grow more in the enterprise business, because in an environment where organisations are shifting into the cloud, business reliance on a specific brand or device for [all their IT services] becomes less important. This gives us an opportunity for the growth in tends like bring-your-own-device, as more organisations move towards a direction where organisations provide employees with a list of accredited PCs,so that’s one area of expansion that we are hoping to see.”

While the company has seen significant local growth in the past year, the global shortage of PC components created by the COVID-19 pandemic has dented its overall growth potential.

The global shortage of computer chips coincided with the soaring demand for tech products and reportedly reached crisis level by March this year, affecting the electronics and mobile industries.

However, Du Toit is of the view that the shortages will ease as more governments across the globe increasingly rollout vaccine programmes.

“Although our market share has remained stable, the supply chain shortage happened in a growing market across the board. But we need to ensure there is sustainability in that growth because if the current growth of the PC market is not sustainable, it is going to slump very quickly as soon as the COVID-19 bubble pops, and we need to focus on long-term sustainability.”