Acer unveils handheld and tablet PC vision

Acer Computer has announced its strategic assault on the burgeoning handheld market with four new models to be launched in October. The company has also drawn the curtain back on its ambitious plans to follow Microsoft into the Tablet PC arena.

Acer will launch two consumer-focused personal digital assistants (PDAs), dubbed the s series, when it enters the PDA market later this year. These will be accompanied by two Pocket PCs, the n series, targeted at the corporate user.

Acer will kick-start its offensive with an extensive marketing campaign promoting customer "choice". The message is clear: Acer wants to leverage its number three branding in the Australian PC market to win the hearts and minds of customers.

"Choice is not only about features and functionality, it's about the customer's ability to consider Acer as a brand," said Antonio Leone, Acer Australia's product manager, notebook and handheld PCs. "Choosing Acer means customers have the choice to buy from a company that can offer [replacement] services, can handle large-scale rollouts and has a long-term commitment to the Australian market. It's intangible, but it has to do with what our MD describes as customer ‘stickiness'."

Choice of PDAs is something consumers are starting to have no shortage of, given the plethora of new models being touted by a range of established and emerging vendors. But launching a new range of handhelds given current economic conditions might have Acer fighting battles on a number of fronts.

Inform handheld analyst Luke Solyom said Acer's entry into the PDA and Pocket PC market will be met with strong resistance from the likes of Palm and HP but will be very competitive with Toshiba.

Acer will employ both its retail and commercial channels to take the new products to market, and Leone claims Acer expects to be moving up to 1,000 units per month by the end of the year. Sales of the consumer-focused s series are expected to account for the bulk of Acer's handheld revenues.

The majority of Acer's current retail partners will be involved in the launch and Leone claims the vendor has not ruled out the possibility of having its products grace the shelves of retail giant Harvey Norman.

Acer will also add a Tablet PC in November to its new-look arsenal. Acer is one of four manufacturers launching Tablet PCs based on Microsoft's new operating system. The PC features a 180-degree revolving screen, Pentium III mobile processor and wireless LAN.

At less than 1.5kg, the Tablet PC will not carry a DVD or CD-ROM drive at launch but does feature USB and FireWire connectivity for external drives. Pricing is yet to be finalised.

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