Interview: Packard Bell - PC Retail

Interview: Packard Bell

Having just joined the tablet club, Packard Bell is looking to further stamp its mark on the mobile consumer sector in the UK. Luca Rossi, PB vice president how the tablet market is bound to consolidate whilst growing, and how it manages to avoid stepping on sister company Acer?s toes...
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Tell us a bit about Packard Bell’s history – it goes back nearly a hundred years, right?

Historically Packard Bell started maybe 80 years ago as a radio brand in the United States, while the current Packard Bell company just celebrated its 20th anniversary. When it started it was primarily a desktop PC brand, but over the years we have extended the product range from the traditional PC to the mobile
PC to storage, to monitors, and now to the tablet.

Did the focus change following the acquisition from Acer, or has it remained pretty constant?

It has been fairly concentrated on PC. Even before the acquisition from Acer there was already a strategy for storage and monitors, and in terms of mobility products, Acer’s takeover accelerated the push. The division was subsequently enhanced and strengthened.

So these days your focus is much more on mobile PCs?

The market is definitely shifting from the deskbound to mobility. In desktops Packard Bell has always had a strong position across Europe. We acknowledge that right now the desktop sector is not growing – with the exception of the all-in-one segment, where we would like to be a big player.

Will all-in-ones take over the role provided by towers?

It is happening. They are gaining share. The market share depends on the country and I believe the average in Europe is around ten per cent. But in the UK it’s more like 20 or 25 per cent. The UK is one of the front-runners for growth for the all-in-one versus the traditional desktop.

How does the relationships within Acer group work? Presumably with Acer, Gateway and Packard Bell you’re often going after the same market. Or are there strong differences between the groups?

First of all I’d say yes Acer is about consumer, but it is also about SMB. At the present time Packard Bell is only on consumer. There are obviously certain areas of overlap, but we do have a strategy that addresses different customers. Primarily, people buying Acer and PB are not the same people.

How do they differ, exactly?

The consumer side of Acer addresses the technology-orientated people who are looking for the best, the latest spec. Meanwhile at Packard Bell, we don’t
focus heavily on the specs but we invest more on the design and the user experience.

So Acer tends to be higher end, and PB looks more at style?

Maybe the proposition is that Acer is more rational, while Packard Bell is more emotional.

You’ve just launched the LibertyTab. Pretty much every PC manufacturer is trying to get into the tablet market right now, and it has to be said there aren’t many differentiators between them. What separates your tablet from the pack?

I would say the camera, connectivity and colours are the main differences. We realise it is not extremely easy to differentiate in the tablet space, when the screen is 95 per cent of the device. But we still have some technological differentiation, the colour will play an important role, probably also the branding will play a role. We will try to enrich this experience.

Bearing in mind there are so many players, do you think the market is big enough to accommodate all of these products?

If you look at the predictions, the market will grow in the range of 100 per cent year-on-year in the coming years worldwide. So that means there is an estimation of 50 million units in 2011, 100 million in 2012, and 150 million in 2013. So there will be exponential growth. Personally I think there will be a concentration – the current market leader will continue with all the significant share. We have an aspiration as Acer Group for significant share as well. So I do not believe the market has room for everybody. Let’s say the top three to four players will hold 90 or 95 per cent of the share. If you look at this, it is similar to the rest of the PC industry.

In a similar way to how the graphics card market is significantly concentrated? There are now far few players now than there were in, say the year 2000.

And I believe this concentration will be more severe in the tablet market than it was with graphics cards.

A lot of companies are investing a lot of money in this segment, so some companies could be in trouble?

Yes.

And do you think Apple can be knocked from the top spot at any point? Could companies like you get to the position of being number one?

It is my personal opinion, which doesn’t necessarily reflect the corporate one, that Apple will continue to hold all the significant share in the next year or two. I don’t see any reason why it would lose the number one spot, but I believe its dominance will be reduced significantly in terms of market share.

PB is a brand that’s has jumped around the globe a bit in terms of ownership. Where would you say you are strongest now geographically, and what are your goals for growth?

Twenty years ago Packard Bell was a French company. The American heritage is the Packard Bell brand, back to 80 years ago when it did radios. We are aiming to grow in EMEA. Then we do have a footprint in the Chilean market, it might be that from there we will do more business in Latin America, but for now there are no plans to expand into the US or Asia.

So to cap it off, how are you going to look to define yourself in the UK specifically over the next few years?

I would say tablet is very important, but that’s not our only goal. We still have a strong focus to develop mobility. We aim to keep growing market share and are looking to hit double digit growth this year.

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