Acer's Shih to Retire as PC Vendor Makes Cloud Push

Acer's founder will step down as chairman after returning to the company six months ago to help stabilize it.

Stan Shih came out of retirement in November 2013 to become chairman of Acer, the company he founded and which had seen its financial fortunes tumble in the wake of a contracting global PC market.

Shih returned in hopes of giving the embattled tech vendor stability amid a range of executive changes and efforts to push Acer in new directions, in particular personal clouds. Now Acer officials say Shih will again retire in June, confident that the company is heading in the right direction. Acer is scheduled to elect new board members next month, and along with that will elect a new chairman.

Speaking on CNBC at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in China, Shih—who initially retired in 2004—said that a corporation should not rely on any one person, and that he had accomplished what he needed to do since returning.

"Of course, I can play an important role for some period of time, but this time—these seven months—are good enough for the company," he said. "My colleagues in Acer will work on the consensus we have for the transformation and they have more energy than me. My mission is to help the overall Taiwan industry and the overall economy to move to a more competitive level."

Acer, at one point the world's second-largest PC vendor based on the strengths of its netbook business, has struggled in recent years with the slowdown in the PC space and the rise of mobile devices, particularly tablets and smartphones from Apple and vendors leveraging Google's Android operating system.

After a disappointing third quarter last year, both Acer's CEO and president resigned, and Jason Chen, a former senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at chip foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, took over the positions at the beginning of this year.

The company lost $254 million in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Acer has continued to expand its offerings in the PC and tablet spaces, but its efforts in the cloud have garnered the most attention in recent months. In late December, Acer officials announced the company's Build Your Own Cloud (BYOC) initiative, in which consumers will be able to build personal clouds on their own devices, integrating their PC and mobile devices for accessing data, such as music and photos. In addition, Acer will build an ecosystem around the BYOC strategy by designing and enhancing its own apps and bringing in partners, and will offer software and services designed to help consumers build their clouds.

Consumer and enterprise users will see their own devices—from PCs to smartphones to tablets—become the foundations for their personal clouds, enabling them to access content on their PCs from any device over the Internet, Shih said.

Acer reportedly will launch BYOC offerings in the third quarter, and will charge enterprise users a licensing fee. In addition, the company reportedly will open a BYOC center in Taiwan later this month.

Acer's efforts to offer private cloud storage echo what rivals like Apple and Lenovo are doing, but according to Shih, Acer's offering is different.

"They are not open," he said, referring to competitor offerings. "We have a very solid, scalable, secure cloud platform. We've worked on it for many, many years. This is a cloud platform that is open for the industry."

The cloud solution leverages the technology Acer inherited when it bought cloud specialist iGware in 2011 for $320 million. Acer renamed the company Acer Cloud Technologies and added it to other initiatives at the company aimed at the cloud, including the development of the Basic Computer and Specific Usage Computing efforts and its AcerCloud applications.