Acer Eyes the SMB Market

After growing its U.S. retail presence, the Taiwan-based vendor unveils low-cost notebooks for smaller businesses.

Acer, which has been focusing on the consumer market and fighting for space in retail stores, is turning its attention back to the North American small- and midsized-business market.

On Dec. 20, the Taiwan PC vendor announced that it would begin selling its low-cost Extensa 4620 notebook into the North American market for the first time. The 14.1-inch laptops come equipped with either an Intel Core 2 Duo or a Pentium dual-core processor.

Acer, which has its U.S. headquarters in San Jose, Calif., is also keeping its prices down for the Extensa notebooks. The Pentium-based laptop starts at $699 and the Core 2 Duo machine starts at $799, according to Acer.

The aggressive pricing of these SMB notebooks should allow Acer to continue competing against the bigger names in the market—in particular, Hewlett-Packard and Dell—as well as against other Asian-based PC vendors, such as Toshiba. In October, Toshiba launched its new Satellite Pro series, which is based on Advanced Micro Devices processors, with starting prices of about $699.

While Acer, Toshiba and other vendors are offering low-cost laptops to gain market share, Doug Bell, an analyst with IDC, wrote in an e-mail that these companies make money by offering SMB services rather than hardware.

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"In many cases, the vendors' real value comes from the service to the SMB client, and not so much the box," Bell wrote to eWEEK. "Lowering the [average sale price] is a great way to get in and gain share. … SMBs need more of an IT package, rather than a cheap PC."

After Acer spent the year working to increase its retail presence, illustrated by the acquisition of Gateway for $710 million in August, Bell said the release of the Extensa notebook brings the company back to its SMB roots in North America, where its channel partners have helped create a foothold for Acer.

Acer has also been one of the fastest growing PC vendors in the world, thanks to its consumer line. In the third quarter, the company increased its worldwide PC shipments by more about 58 percent over 2006, according to IDC and Gartner. The Gateway acquisition should further increase its market share in 2008.


In addition to the Intel processors—the Core 2 Duo T5450 runs at 1.66GHz and has 2MB of L2 cache and a 667MHz front side bus—the Extensa offers 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM (double data rate 2 synchronous dynamic RAM), an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3100 card, a hard disk drive with up to 120GB of capacity, and 802.11 b/g wireless LAN technology. (One model offers 802.11 a WLAN technology as well.)

The notebook will come with the Microsoft Windows XP operating system, although the notebooks are Vista capable.

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