Taiwanese PC manufacturer Acer has proclaimed that PCs will not be able to fulfil the needs of the majority of the world's consumers.
The company proposed five reference platforms for low-priced, limited function devices based on PC hardware and the internet, at the World Congress on IT in Fairfax, Virginia, last week.
Speaking at the Congress, Acer chairman Stan Shih said the vendor was pushing an alternative concept of an 'XC' or X-computer, first revealed earlier this year, as an easy to use, application specific device based on PC standards.
Acer has developed reference platforms for five market segments and hopes other vendors will market custom systems based on the designs. The designs will have user prices between $199 and $999. Systems based on the X200 children's computer and the X300 set-top box are already being test marketed.
'Less than five per cent of the world population owns a PC,' Shih said, adding that this is not a fact underlined by price issues.
PCs selling for less than $1,000 would grow the market further, he said, but ease of use was now the main factor limiting market growth, and XCs could address that.
This was also the claim for the Oracle/Sun-backed network computer but, Shih argued, proponents of the NC or of internet appliances were missing part of the point.
'To take what is already available in the PC industry is the key concept,' he said, stressing that XCs will use PC standards such as Intel-compatible processors, DVD and Universal Serial Bus ports.
Shih claimed XCs would not negatively affect the PC market but would create a market for more, when consumers introduced to computing by the low-end device want a more powerful machine.
Dell president Michael Dell, who also spoke at the Congress, expressed scepticism about the XC.
'There have been $200 PCs before,' he pointed out. 'The question is, what can you do with them? I know many businesses that have 386-based PCs and they would love to get rid of them because they won't run modern applications.'
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