Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Tale Of Two PCs

I use a Lenovo notebook and an Acer netbook.

It is not my intention to inform you of my possession. Rather, I thought I can share some thoughts based on these two modern but common devices I am using.

First of all, let's sort out the terminology in the simplest way possible (some of you may need this?).


It is a lightweight personal computer (PC) which allows you to carry from place to place easily. Typically it weights slightly over 2kg and some are small enough to fit in a briefcase.

The computing power of a notebook can be equivalent to that of a desktop computer. However, all this power in a small package means that you have to pay more. Prices can range from S$1000-S$3000. The batteries usually requires recharging every 2-3 hours. In a way, this has limited the portability of the device.

This is also a portable computing device similar to a notebook except that it is even smaller. The reduced size promises greater portability but at the expense of limited features and computing power (gamers, this is not for you).

A netbook typically has smaller display screen ranging from 7 to 10 inches. It weighs around 1 kg and supports a keyboard that has its size reduced by 75%-80% when compared to a standard one. It has a longer battery life of up to 5-6 hours.

In order to keep it simple and small, netbooks do not come with built-in optical drives. This means that you cannot slot in your favorite CDs or DVDs without an additional external device.

Prices for netbooks range from S$600 to S$900. One of the first netbooks, and the most well-known brand name is the ASUS Eee PC.
The brands, Lenovo and Acer, are familiar to many.


Lenovo is the brand under the Lenovo Group Limited (联想集团有限公司) which started in 1984. In 1997, it grew to become mainland China's market leader and it is now the largest PC manufacturer there. In 2005, it purchased IBM's PC division and became world's fourth largest PC manufacturer, after Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Dell of the U.S. and Acer of Taiwan.


Acer is the brand under Acer Incorporated (宏碁股份有限公司). It is a Taiwan-based multinational electronics manufacturer and its product lines include PC and peripherals and other devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), servers and storage media. Acer was founded in 1976 and it purchased Texas Instruments' mobile PC (laptop) division in 1997. Its growth over the years has been impressive.

Market Share

In terms of global PC shipment for Q2 2009, Acer is ranked 3rd, after HP and Dell. Lenovo is queueing behind at the 4th place. In terms of notebook sales (including netbook), Acer surpassed HP and Dell and is ranked top in Sept 2008.

In short, Acer seems to be leading Lenovo for the time being.

PRC and Taiwan - Friends or Foe?

As a Brand name, Acer is ahead of Lenovo, period. However, considering the fact that Acer is from Taiwan and Lenovo is from PRC, there is probably something more to talk about.

Lenovo and Acer originate from two jurisdiction with very complicated relationship. The tensions between PRC and Taiwan find their roots in the 1949 Chinese revolution, when communists led by Chairman Mao claimed control of the mainland. Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek withdrew to Taiwan, with two million refugees, exclaiming "I'll be back" and vowing to reclaim the mainland. The dispute has not come to a closure after 60 years.

Historically, the people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits have mixed feelings as to their identities. Culturally, they would like to think that they are similar. Politically, they hold very entangled views which I believe cannot be easily sorted out in the near future.

Given such backdrop, it would be very interesting to see the two jurisdiction compete in the global economy, securing their shares in the PC market as well as in many other aspects.

In terms of land mass, PRC is more than 270 times bigger than Taiwan. In terms of population, PRC is about 60 times more than Taiwan. However, in terms of GDP per capita, Taiwan is five times more than that of PRC.

Based on these raw facts, it is hard for economists to predict how the competition will take off from here as the on-going political strain remains a wild card.

My Lenovo and My Acer

Now let's come back to the two PCs I am using.

The Lenovo notebook is a matte black v100. It is about 2kg, fully equipped with a built-in optical drive. It has a 12.1 inch screen, which is considered small in the notebook family, but I would not describe it as thin and light. The overall look is rather plain and not at all exciting. However, in terms of performance, it is a real work horse, working quietly and does not emit too much heat. The sound quality of the speakers is quite decent too.

The Acer AspireOne D250 (Ultra Slim) is by comparison more fanciful looking. Its maroon red body gives it a vibrant exterior. The 10 inch screen makes it smaller but sexy. With its sleek built, less power is packed into it compared to the hardy Lenovo. I probably cannot do very demanding tasks with it but it copes rather well with general computing and Internet surfing.

Random Thoughts

In some ways, when I look at these two PCs of mine, they do resemble the current state of growth PRC and Taiwan are going through.

PRC is bigger with great potential and is capable of doing much more. On the other hand, Taiwan is much sleeker and without as much resources but it is able to differentiate itself by constantly redesigning and re-engineering, making it look attractive.

Lenovo and Acer are both computer brands from Asia. They both face similar competition inside and beyond Asia. Acer built its brand over the years and Lenovo leapfrogged on IBM’s brand equity. But in spite of these similarities, one striking factor differentiates these two cases — the country of origin.
The 'Made in China' stigma is real and it does not look like that it is going away any time soon. Given such baggage, Lenovo needs to do a lot of work to win in the PC market. So far, its 'ThinkPad' range, which is a legacy of IBM, is selling well. However, Lenovo would seriously need to find its own differentiating factor in order to sustain a long term growth.

Acer, on the other hand, is leading the market by leading in its innovation and design. It has created its own image and grown its own 'fan group'. It has gradually and successfully shed the 'cheap plastic' image and replace it with one of quality.

I am not a die-hard fan of either brand or for that matter, any brand. At any one time, I will go for any one that meets my needs. My requirement is actually quite a no-brainer ... powerful, gorgeous and affordable.

To me, a PC is a machine. It works for me and not the other round. I do not care what letters or logos are embossed on the body. We must not in anyway become the tool of our tools.

By the way, I am blogging this article with my Acer netbook.

"The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men,
but that men will begin to think like computers.
~Sydney J. Harris
American journalist

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