Acer & AOpen: Why Acer Buys into Digital Signage

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Acer & AOpen: Why Acer Buys into Digital Signage
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Author Thomas Wolfe was wrong: you can go home again…

Who remembers when AOpen was the Open System Business Unit of Acer Computer?

AOpen was incorporated in December 1996 as a subsidiary of Acer Group with an initial public offering (IPO) at the Taiwan stock exchange in August 2002. 

It was also the first subsidiary spun out of Acer under the supervision of Stan Shih, Taiwan's famous PC entrepreneur and founder of the Acer Group (and perhaps the most important man in the history of Taiwan's desire to build its own consumer brands.)

In 1998, Acer re-organised into five groups: AOpen grew from one of those groups.

To dispel complaints from clients that Acer competed with its own products (branded sales vs. contract manufacturing or OEM businesses) in 2000, Acer spun off the contract business, under the name Wistron Corporation. AOpen went with Wistron as a subsidiary.

The restructuring resulted in two primary Acer units: brand name sales and contract manufacturing. Then in 2001 Acer got rid of its manufacturing units, BenQ and Wistron to focus resources on design and sales.

Yes, I just mentioned the history and origin of BenQ. Another part of Stan Shih’s big legacy.

Today, in this new deal of 2017, AOpen and Acer announce a private placement of shares. With this private placement, Acer became the largest corporate shareholder in AOpen followed by Wistron Corporation.

From history, you can see that Wistron was Acer's "brother" (the manufacturing arm of Acer before being spun off in 2001) and that makes Wistron's AOpen a nephew of Acer.

Now the nephew (AOpen, a subsidiary of Wistron Group) gets adopted by the Uncle (Acer, the new main shareholder). In Asian business, it's sometimes hard to tell relatives apart.

Today AOpen has two strategic divisions. As the PC Components business deteriorate (maybe, imploded is a better word), AOpen was smart enough to see that computers embedded in displays meant the PC business was going to be digital signage. Under AOpen CEO & President, Bernie Tsai (we once called him the Steve Jobs of AOpen) the company leveraged its historical relationship with Intel to pursue successfully digital signage. AOpen went for the full solution: media player, management, deployment, display, extension and software.


While AOpen moved away from the dwindling consumer business, they did stay in the IT business with their Small Form Factor Platform division. AOPEN develops SFF platform products such as HTPC and gaming PC in digital homes, and office PC in digital offices. In addition, AOPEN develops SFF business PC for business applications, such as kiosks and POS. AOPEN also supplies a wide variety of I/O components, including case, motherboard, keyboard and mouse.

The other smart move AOpen made—and their approach saved them from the Last Man Standing position that has trapped many of the PC component companies—was to embrace Google and Chrome.

Today AOpen remains the only commercial device provider developing technology across all operating systems, including Google Chrome OS. AOpen is beloved by Google for their efforts.

So AOpen has two Big Brothers now, Intel (from the PC business) and Google. Good move.

So why is Acer back? Acer recognizes it has gone as far in the PC business as it can and now its going wide. It has embraced many new product categories: while PC gaming is a natural, smartphones a must, and 360 degree camera a typical PC accessory, Acer stretched further with Leap Wear fitness gear, senior citizen tablets, and bicycle tech. They even have a joint venture in VR with StarVR who supplies IMAX.  Yet my favorite from Acer is Pawbo, their Pet Care division

Acer, like all the PC business is looking to B2B for profit these days…and Acer is following the IT industry road map mantra…Cloud, Big Data, Mobile, AI, AR…Close your eyes, and just keep repeating in reverent tones…For these are the future of IT.

And whether an IT company survives depends upon how one weaves together these important trends. Acer has launched, to big fanfare, its own Cloud service aBeing Cloud…its Build Your Own Cloud service. Cloud is one way to weave many of these IT trends together.

Acer Being Signage

And that brought Acer back to (among other areas)…digital signage (Acer Being Signage). Why should Acer go out and compete as a beginner when they can turn to a family solution?

Acer can supply services that AOpen needs and AOpen can lead them down the path digital signage is now headed…cloud services, proximity marketing, AR/VR, sensors and IoT, retail and education opportunities and more…

AOpen brings Google and Chromebox to the party. And Acer can help push their SFF division to its customers, as well as digital signage. It’s a natural match as the companies were once intertwined and there is an in-breeding of executives and shareholders. It’s like family.

You could say AOpen is home, again.

Go Read the Acer and AOpen Press Release and you’ll see why this article explains it all so much better