At a press conference in Beijing, computer maker Acer revealed it is making a play into the consumer electronics and entertainment market, announcing both a 6-inch E Ink ebook reader called the LumiRead, but also a DLNA-complaint home media sharing system dubbed Clear.fi, at the center of which will be Acer’s Revo line of entertainment and digital home media gear.
Acer’s Clear.fi system is based on DLNA, and is designed to make it simple for users to store digital media and share it transparently between devices, whether that be smartphones, PCs, home theater systems, personal media players, or (yes) eReaders. All Clear.fi devices will share the same interface, regardless of platform: for instance, Acer’s Stream smartphone will tie in with Clear.fi and present a consistent interface to users, despite running on Android rather than Windows 7.
The heart of the consumer side of Clear.fi will be Acer’s forthcoming Revo line of devices, all of which will come with Clear.fi pre-installed. The Revo line will include the RevoView media player, which is designed to connect to home theater systems, acting as an access point for a wire range of media: it will be able to share media from hard disks, optical disks, memory cards, or UPnP mass storage, and push it all out to a big screen via HDMI. The RevoView’s hard drive can also be removed and used with Acer’s 2010 Aspire M Series desktops and the RevoCenter.
The RevoCenter will be able to stream digital media content to multiple applications or DLNA-compliant devices anywhere on a uers’ home network. The device will support up to four hot-swappable SATA drives, and will permit remote access to users can easily access their media or upload new content. The RevoCenter can also act as centralized PC backup, and can be expanded with additional external hard drives at any time.
The RevoPad is Acer’s attempt to reinvent the remote, offering wireless control of Clear.fi devices: a backlit QWERTY keyboard enables users to easily enter data and control apps, and the keyboard turns into a multi-gesture touchpad with just one click. The RevoPad will ship with Acer’s clear.fi console, an all-in-one media center which aims to be a simple digital media hub for a home: users can drag and drop to play any multimedia file, or simple drag content to “Play To” or “Save To” buttons to share media with other devices.
Last but not least, Acer is also planning to offer up the LumiPad reader, a distinctly Kindle-like eReader with a 6-inch E Ink display and an integrated QWERTY keypad. Although it won’t offer support wireless connectivity via cellular networks, the LumiRead will support DLNA media sharing for ebooks and audio books, meaning it can plug into the entire Clear.fi ecosystem Acer envisions as the center of consumers’ digital lives. The LumiRead eReader will also sport 2GB of storage and an ISB scanner so users can build their own wishlists of titles. Acer has partnered with Barnes & Noble and Libre.de to provide access to millions of titles, and will be working with Chinese high-tech outfit Founder to localize content for English, Chinese, and German, with French and Italian expected to follow shortly.
All in all, Acer’s move is undeniably bold: they want to be at the center of consumers’ digital media lives. However, the success of the Clear.fi technology and Revo product line might depend on how well Acer can convince users it meets all their needs. While Acer has a strong market presence in Asia and Europe, it’s major presence in the North American market is actually through subsidiary Gateway…and that’s not a company known for its home theater and consumer electronics. And it’s unlikely major Asian consumer electronics gianst like Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic will stand aside while Acer tries to create a new business.