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Acer tackles rivals with private PC clouds

– Acer is getting into the cloud-computing business to compete with the likes of and Google. The difference is that the maker of notebooks wants you to host the service on your own personal computer.

Its private cloud offers more security than rival services that store information on off-site servers, according to the Taipei company. Acer’s software to operate a personal cloud is free and compatible with a wide variety of smartphones, tablets and computers, according to the company.

With the company facing a third consecutive annual loss, co-founder and Chairman Stan Shih came out of retirement in November to help lead the business as demand for PCs slumps. Amid the company’s $691 million loss last year, the fledgling cloud services unit was a lonely bright spot, turning a small profit.

“I’d like to see more than 50 percent of profit from non-PC as quick as possible,” Shih said, referring to the company’s cloud-computing business.

That cloud services unit generated $43 million in revenue last year from clients including Bank of America and UBS, said Rex Wu, a vice president at the company. That’s less than 1 percent of Acer’s revenue for the year.

To compete with services from Google and Amazon, Acer is opening its cloud platform to programmers and making it compatible with as many devices as possible, Shih said. The company is positioning itself to capture growing demand for data storage and applications powered by the rise of Web-connected devices across homes and workplaces.

The market for the so-called Internet of Things – which ranges from Web-enabled home appliances to centrally linked industrial equipment – is estimated to generate $8.9 trillion in revenue by 2020, up from $4.8 trillion in 2012, researcher IDC reported in October.

In creating the underlying software that can run on customer devices including computers, smartphones and tablets, Acer says its private cloud doesn’t face privacy risks because it keeps personal and corporate data in the hands of users.

Companies including Cisco Systems, AT&T, ARM, General Electric and Intel have been aiming to make money by providing software, hardware, components or connectivity to a variety of wireless, connected gadgets – ranging from smoke detectors to industrial equipment and wristwatches for soldiers.

Acer’s lineup will include hardware such as smartphones, computers, tablets and wearable devices that the PC-maker offers, Shih said. The company has released its Liquid Leap wristband, which tracks activity, features a touch-screen and will link to new cloud service.

Called “Build Your Own Cloud,” the service is a refresh of an idea Shih unveiled in October 2001. Shih’s MegaMicro vision back then combined an infrastructure of networks and servers with lighter electronics devices.