Acer aims to overtake HP in notebook sales

Buoyed by record third-quarter earnings and a line of new notebooks, Acer is looking to outpace HP as the No. 1 portable PC seller, according to Chairman J.T. Wang.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
4 min read

Acer recently outpaced Dell as the second largest PC seller in the world. Is No. 1 Hewlett-Packard next on the list?

Acer Chairman J.T. Wang reportedly intends to ship 40 million notebooks in 2010, a number that could help the Taiwanese company challenge and even overtake current champ Hewlett-Packard for the top spot in portable PC sales.

To achieve this goal, Acer is looking to kick up revenue by more than 70 percent over the next three years, said Wang in an interview with Reuters.

J.T. Wang
Credit: Acer
J.T. Wang

Much of that revenue growth is likely to come from an anticipated 50 percent gain in sales for low-cost Netbook PCs. As the economy improves, Wang expects to sell an ever greater number of low-priced, portable PCs, a segment that has been very kind to the company.

As chairman since 2008, Wang has led Acer as its sales and market share have shot up over the past year. And with revenue expected to hit $18 billion this year, he's already targeting the next milestone.

"The idea is to reach $30 billion as soon as possible," Wang told Reuters. "When we look at the overall market, if the PC market starts to grow from next year and handhelds have the potential to become a $200 billion market, $30 billion is a humble target."

On Friday, the company saw third-quarter sales hit $167.6 billion Taiwanese dollars ($5.2 billion), a new high and up 5.3 percent from last year's third quarter. Earnings jumped 14 percent to $3.47 billion Taiwanese dollars ($107.8 million). Had it not been for a shortage of certain components, Acer said it would have done even better.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect sales to rise to $573 billion Taiwanese dollars ($18 billion) for the entire year, and $821 billion Taiwanese dollars ($25 billion) in 2012.

Acer has hit the portable PC market with a fury, releasing a string of small, light, low-cost products. Its latest upcoming entry is the Aspire 1820PT, a 11.6-inch notebook with a swivel screen that transforms it into a tablet computer.

Unlike most small Netbooks that size, the 1820PT will be powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, rather than the slower Atom chip. Wang believes that PC users have been turned off by the slowness of many light, ultrathin portables, including those made by Acer.

"We didn't pay enough attention to that," said Wang in a statement after the third quarter earnings were released. "End-users will not compromise on this low speed problem. This time we should be able to do it right."

Also, at less than 1.36 inches thick, the 1820PT will be thinner than most other current swivel-screen notebook/tablets, such as the Fujitsu LifeBook. To be released in time for the holidays, the new notebook will reportedly offer eight hours of battery life and hold as much as 8GB of RAM, says Acer.

But the company is not just relying on the PC market to stimulate growth. At the end of November, Acer will debut its new smartphone, the Acer Liquid A1. Powered by a 768Mhz Snapdragon processor and running the Android operating system, the Liquid will sport a 3.5 inch touch screen, 800 x 480 high-definition resolution, 256MB of memory, and a 5MP autofocus camera. Also part of the mix will be Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and integration with Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.

Though hands-on details have been sparse, sites such as Gizmodo and Engadget have already said the Snapdragon CPU will likely turn the Liquid A1 into one of the fastest Android phones around.

Acer already pounced on the smartphone market earlier this year with its Tempo line, all running Windows Mobile. But the Liquid will be its first phone to run the Android OS. And although Android phones have been slowly catching on, they naturally face an uphill battle against top players like the Apple iPhone.

The company has also been busy the past several years on a series of strategic acquisitions, eating up Gateway in 2007, Packard Bell in early 2008, and smartphone maker E-Ten a couple of months later.

The purchases of Gateway and Packard Bell have been part of what Acer calls a multibrand strategy, which has aimed to raise the company's brand awareness in countries such as the U.S.

With a global PC market share of 14 percent (second to HP's 20 percent), Acer has become one of the fastest growing PC makers over the past few years, propelling it past Lenovo and then Dell and soon to battle HP for the top spot.