Acer heads for the clouds with iGware acquisition

Acer boosted its cloud computing capabilities on Thursday by announcing that it plans to spend $320m to acquire iGware, a US cloud computing company whose technology powers Nintendo’s WiFi Connection.

The Taiwanese PC maker has been losing market share as it copes with organisational changes after the abrupt departure of Gianfranco Lanci as chief executive this year.

The new management, headed by chairman and chief executive JT Wang, had identified software and services as one of the key areas that Acer needed to work on if it were to improve margins and “boost brand value”.

Commenting on the deal on Thursday, Mr Wang said:

“iGware offers expertise in cloud technology software design, with services already deployed on [a] large scale and long-term basis. As a mid- to long-term investment objective, the valuable core technology and capabilities will help create uniqueness for the Acer brand, and support a vast number of our users based on [an] open platform.”

More immediately, the iGware acquisition will help Acer deploy the Acer Cloud by next year – likely a beefed up version of its clear.fi service that automatically helps users set up a wireless local area network whenever multiple Acer devices are within range of each other.

If it works, offerings like Acer Cloud and clear.fi would certainly help Acer boost its customer loyalty across different product categories, but in the age of Dropbox, Spotify and Hulu, it is questionable whether a hardware maker like Acer needs to wade into an increasingly crowded field.

One final, small irony: the acquisition comes after Mr Lanci said, in a final parting shot after he had resigned, that Acer had blocked him from seeking talent overseas, an accusation that Acer denies.

“The real major issue was doing that in Taiwan, this was not possible,” Lanci told the Wall Street Journal’s Mobilized blog in May. “We needed to go outside Taiwan, be it China or India or even the US or Europe, wherever you can find software resources, software know-how.”