Acer Unveils Windows 7, Android Tablets for 2011 Release

Acer has revealed two Android-based tablets and a Windows 7 tablet for early 2011 release, jumping into an increasingly crowded tablet market.

Acer plans to release two Android-based tablets and a Windows 7 tablet in early 2011, joining an already crowded market. Pricing and names remain undisclosed for the devices, which will compete against not only the Apple iPad, but also other Android-based tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Acer's 7-inch and 10.1-inch tablets will arrive next April. The manufacturer is also reportedly planning a 10.1-inch tablet running Windows 7, with front- and rear-facing cameras, which will hit store shelves in February 2011.

All three devices will feature WiFi and 3G. During a Nov. 23 press conference in New York City, Acer executives also demonstrated an Android-powered smartphone with a 4.8-inch touch-screen, as well as a 14-inch dual-screen laptop.

Having coasted the netbooks trend to ever-higher profits and profile, Acer now faces a conundrum in the burgeoning tablet market. Companies such as Apple and Samsung are making significant forays into that space, with others-including Acer competitors Dell and Hewlett-Packard-poised to join the fray in coming months. Samsung's Galaxy Tab has already sold 600,000 units within a month of release, according to one new report, while millions of iPads have shipped since April.

While the iPad holds some 95.5 percent of the worldwide tablet market, according to recent data from Strategy Analytics, the general expectation is that proliferating Android tablets will begin to seize a higher percentage of the market in coming months.

The billion-dollar question is whether the surging interest in tablets is eroding the market for traditional low-end notebooks and netbooks.

"No one expected netbook sales to stay at the atmospheric levels of 2009 and, in fact, netbooks, as a percentage of U.S. consumer sales, have been very steady all year in the mid-teens," Stephen Baker, an analyst with NPD Group, wrote in a Sept. 20 posting on the research firm's official blog. "In light of the sales facts it is, in my view, a mistaken and absolutely untenable position to claim that PC sales are under pressure because of the iPad when there are so many other factors that are contributing to poor results."

Other analysts seem more convinced of tablets' weighing down the notebook market.

"We expect tablets to continue to pressure PCs as more vendors launch products (e.g., Dell Streak and Samsung Tab) and Apple expands its iPad distribution," Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty wrote in a Sept. 17 research note. Her research note used data from NPD Group, showing overall U.S. notebook sales declining 4 percent year-over-year for 2010.

Whether the tablet market continues to grow cannibalization-free, or if it impacts sales of netbooks, Acer evidently intends to play a part in it.