J.T. Wang

Remember the netbook?

In the pre-iPad era, the streamlined species of mini-laptop was poised to redefine personal computing. Now, with Lenovo, Dell and Asustek all pulling the plug on their netbook lines in recent months, few seem to think the product will survive.

That is, except for Taiwanese computer maker Acer.

"We will continue to make netbooks," Acer's Chairman and CEO J.T. Wang told The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview. "They aren't dead. How could they be dead?"

Acer's financial troubles are mounting, but its CEO insists that he knows what will return the company to profitability: ultrabooks

"Ultrabooks will become our key growth driver next year as customers want a lighter, thinner notebook with longer battery life," Acer CEO J.T. Wang told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview published yesterday. "Selling more ultrabooks will also help improve our profit margins as they command higher prices."

At one time, Acer seemed well on its way to becoming the world's largest PC maker, surpassing Dell in 2009 as its shipments soared.

Acer CEO J.T. Wang had one of those conference calls on Wednesday that could come back and haunt him. First, Wang noted that it will be impossible for Acer to break even for the fiscal year because the second quarter was a disaster. And then it appears that Wang is banking on the ultrabook to trump tablets. And if notebooks don’t regain the interest of consumers? Acer may not break even in 2012 either.

Acer had high hopes for 2011, but it looks like its expectations may have been a bit too optimistic. Today, the company issued revised forecasts for shipments of its tablet PCs, predicting to move between 2.5 and three million units by year's end -- down from the five to seven million it projected earlier. Acer chairman J.T. Wang expects current quarter notebook shipments to dip by ten percent from their Q1 levels, before stabilizing or slightly increasing during Q3. According to the new-look firm, these downward revisions are largely due to lagging economic growth in Europe

Acer Inc. posted its smallest quarterly profit in more than six years after slowing demand for low-cost notebooks caused sales to miss estimates and prompted its president to quit last month. First-quarter net income at the worlds second-largest supplier of notebook computers declined 64 percent to NT$1.2 billion, from NT$3.29 billion a year earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations based on a statement from the Taipei- based company today. The average of nine analysts estimates made in the last 28 days was for net income of NT$1.74 billion, according

A couple of prominent chief executives were shown the door recently because they didn't take the tablet market seriously enough. But the executive boards doing the firing should be careful what they wish for.

This week Acer's CEO, Gianfranco Lanci, was let go because, among other reasons, he wasn't responding quickly enough to the tablet phenomenon, according to Acer Chairman J.T. Wang. And earlier this year the CEO of Advanced Micro Devices resigned for similar reasons. "This market is about growth," Richard Shim, an analyst at market researcher DisplaySearch, said

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