PC maker Acer plans to introduce four new smartphone models later this year, the company announced during its first quarter 2010 financial results meeting. The smartphones will run Acer's user interface, Shell.
Completing a lineup of connected devices, Acer additionally plans to launch a series of MIDS (mobile Internet devices). The additions will complete the user experience Acer offers, from occasionally connected devices, such as notebooks and netbooks, and moving to highly connected devices such as the MIDs and smartphones.
A presentation slide during the announcement - showing a notebook, a netbook, an "e-device" and a smartphone with identical wallpaper or, more likely, interfaces or operating systems - highlighted Acer's desire to offer a "consistent and easier user experience across devices."
The No. 2 PC brand worldwide, Acer posted revenue of $5.1 billion and operating income of $137.8 million for the first quarter. In an April 14 report, Gartner estimated first quarter shipments of 12 million units, for a 14.2 percent market share for Acer, putting it not far behind the worldwide leader, HP, which shipped 15.3 million units, for 18.2 percent market share.
In announcing its plan to more heartily invest in the smartphone market, Acer again followed HP, which on April 28 announced its bid to purchase smartphone maker Palm for $1.2 billion and take advantage of a heartily growing market.
HP today offers a small number of handsets for the enterprise, and Acer, too, has only dipped a toe in the smartphone market, offering devices such as the Android-running Liquid and beTouchE110, the Windows Mobile-based neoTouch P300 and P400, and the Acer Ferrari smartphone, to celebrate the Italian Formula One team.
While PC shipments lagged in 2009, 2010 is already seeing a turnaround, and Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci said his company's shipment numbers could grow by as much as 50 percent this year. Investments in the smartphone market, however, could offer more stability.
Technology Business Research analyst Ken Hyers, writing about HP in an April 29 report, could have easily been referring to Acer.
"Smartphones are becoming key business tools for workers, but HP has failed to penetrate this particular market segment in any meaningful way," Hyers wrote. "Smartphone sales are growing much more rapidly than laptop and PC sales, and the Palm acquisition provides HP a more compelling smartphone product to offer its customers."
In line with the need to penetrate new market segments, as Hyers suggested, Acer Chairman J.T. Wang, in another slide presented during the Acer financials call, offered a two-part outline of Acer's business strategy. The first part dictated: "Innovate to Enhance Profitability," followed by the description: "Competitive advantage of new products can help Acer boost profitability from Q3." While second, "Breakthrough the Bottleneck in China," included creating products for China, brand marketing and channel expansion.
By the end of 2010, HP and Acer should find themselves more heartily competing for market share on not just the PC stage, but in a highly competitive smartphone market dominated by Apple, Google, RIM and HTC, and with little sympathy for a learning curve. Just ask Palm.