Country Manager for Acer in the Middle East, Michele Montecchio brings extensive industry experience to this role, having served in various leadership positions with the company in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region. Speaking to T3 Middle East, Michele elaborates on the challenges brought by the pandemic, the evolution of the notebook and the place of sustainability at Acer.
You’re a veteran of the notebook space. What would you say are the changes you have seen in the notebook category over the last decade, and how the consumer’s perception of the category has changed?
I think the notebook space has evolved immensely, up until 10 years ago there were no gaming machines which could be packed and embedded inside a notebook. You had to 100% have your desktop and your monitor in order to perform high demanding games. Today, interestingly, the notebook gaming market is much bigger than the desktop one. This is just an example of how technology has made an impact in the evolution of the form factor itself.. If you talk about portability and look at any vendor, all the machines have become more thin, more slim, slick and light, over the last ten years, to the point that we now produce machines that weigh less than 1 kg. The borders of the frame are not existent anymore, and the battery life is increased thanks to the lower and lower demands of the latest processors. So it’s really been a decade of evolution and it’s only going to continue.
How would you say the Middle East market is different in terms of consumer preferences and technology adoption?
The Middle East market is varied, it’s vast. We find many types of customers, from the entry level customer to the high-end and very specialized gamers. It’s a market that is giving multinational vendors the ability to serve from A-Z the widest composition of end users exploring their own line-ups. So I’m glad to be here and to have the ability to serve something which elsewhere would be more difficult, let’s say. Here we find a customer for every segment of our lineup, for sure.
What are the trends you see in the notebook space, specifically with the background of 2 years of the pandemic?
Of course, the two years of the pandemic changed the market, and now the market is changing again as things go back to normal. So for sure, now in the notebook industry there is a higher importance given to all the specifications which make the portable devices good enough for not just entertainment, but also work. We need to make sure the performances of your computer are not just enough for your spare time but also for maximum productivity. Taking today’s requirements – video conferencing is a must. So we need to be sure we pay attention to the tech specs that enables video conferencing, cameras and microphones are performing at 100%. Previously, these aspects were secondary in terms of importance. We are also seeing a revival for the commercial environment, offices are getting repopulated now, and we are seeing a lot of movement. In the last two years, it wasn’t ideal for IT departments to bring updates to their employee’s devices. Now that people are getting back into the office, these kind of initiatives have restarted. There is on the other hand, a consumer slowdown in very specific markets. In our country the United Arab Emirates, this is not the case, but elsewhere we see this trend.
There’s a trend towards specific features that consumers want in notebooks, rather than the latest and greatest specs, when you talk of a hybrid work environment. Would you say these are deciding factors when it comes to whether to buy or not?
For sure, the attention to which kind of camera, whether it’s a Full HD camera, and whether you have noise cancelling integrated in your system… the attention to these kind of details is here, while a couple of years ago maybe these were secondary aspects when it came to choosing your new device.
When it comes to the remote working, what would you say are Acers unique USP’s for professional users?
All those specs which are enabling video conferencing, the microphone, the lifetime of the battery, it has become very important, because you don’t always want the device plugged in. At the same time, it has become very important to have an advanced WiFi system, so technologies like WiFi6, which guarantees you a fast and efficient connection, are key.
What are the verticals where you see the greatest scope for growth in the Middle East?
At Acer, we strongly believe that the best vertical we can serve is education. It’s also a matter of pride for us to be one of the best hardware producers for education, and we also firmly believe this supports our future. We have dedicated products for both students and teachers on Windows and Chromebook environments. We will continue to focus on these products in the future. It was always previously a focus, but the need for these products has been boosted by the pandemic. Students need devices to work on their assignments when they are unable to do so traditionally in class.
Another key vertical for us is the notebook environment for creators. Those working in a creative environment such as architects or design studios, have shifted to working from home, and they’ve realized the importance of having a mobile device that is capable in performing renders, and AV that works from home and from mobile devices.
Another vertical is the construction industry. We have a dedicated lineup called Enduro, that serves workers in open air and harsh environments where they might face dust storms, or rain in other parts of the world. They might drop their devices, so they need to be tough. Our Enduro line is comprised of sturdy and ruggedized notebooks and tablets that are ideal for the construction environment.
With regards to creators or construction, can you elaborate on plans for collaborations with government entities and private groups as well in this regard?
I cannot reveal partnerships that are still in discussion. That said, we have a lot of collaborations going on, and many are about to be confirmed in the coming period.
Can you elaborate on how important sustainability is for Acer?
Sustainability is a topic that has become increasingly important especially in the last ten years and is a focus for this side of the world as well. It’s impactful for sure and is including the new generation who are more conscious of such concerns, and Acer is making sure to embrace their mission. I would like to highlight the Acer Earthion platform, which is a fusion of the words “Earth” and “Mission” which was created for our employees and suppliers to make sure we all adopt environmentally sustainable solutions and run our business in the most conscious way possible.
The end result of this process was a dedicated lineup which is called the Aspire Vero. We launched it last year, and we are already announcing the second generation this year, by launching 12th generation Intel machines that have PCR material chassis made up of 30% recycled material and keyboards made of 50% recycled materials, in 14” and 15.6” variants and different colors. Not only that, but the Vero line is also expanding to the commercial side, with a dedicated with a dedicated range of Vero Travelmate products which include monitors and accessories like keyboards and mouses.
Do you see aspects like the eco-friendly packaging on the Aspire Vero line being extended to either end-consumer or more commercial devices in the Acer portfolio?
We are definitely considering to expand this kind of mindset in order to guarantee the minimum environmental effect on packaging, not only for Vero but also for other product lines of ours.