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Mon 13 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Acer rings the bell as it takes on PC market

PC vendor Acer will introduce its Packard Bell brand to the Middle East this month, signalling the arrival of a ‘multi-brand strategy' that the company's global and local management regard as a major weapon in its arsenal.

PC vendor Acer will introduce its Packard Bell brand to the Middle East this month, signalling the arrival of a ‘multi-brand strategy' that the company's global and local management regard as a major weapon in its arsenal.

A year after the IT world saw notebook giant Acer fend off competition from Lenovo to acquire Packard Bell and Gateway, the Acer Group has detailed its vision for a "multi-brand strategy" that it confidently predicts will enhance its position in a crowded PC market.

Given the company now has several brands under its roof, Acer believes it is well-placed to take ongoing issues such as commoditisation and aggressive market pricing in its stride.

It argues that a single-brand PC vendor cannot cover the whole market and adds that its breadth has also allowed it to highlight a gap in the notebook sector for mobile internet users - a market that it hints it may explore in the future as it looks to expand.

Acer plans to roll out its Packard Bell brand in the Middle East this month and Gianfranco Lanci, CEO and president at Acer, defines six distinct customer segments he is looking to cover.

This ranges from high-end ‘tech leaders' with discerning tastes and a pocket to back it up, through to ‘conventional' middle-of-the-range users and price-focused ‘simple and easy' users.

"Acer, Gateway and Packard Bell are three distinct identities of a single group whose objective is to expand the variety of its product range," said Lanci. "The three companies will integrate their own unique experience and abilities to offer a broad range of products that allow customers to find solutions for their uniquely personal needs."

It must be noted that Acer has no plans to launch Gateway in the Middle East as it would potentially overlap with Packard Bell and typically has more traction in the US anyway. That means the vendor's Middle East management is firmly focused on the Packard Bell brand.

But, with the PC market already very cramped, is there really room for another brand?

Acer's CEO seems to think so, insisting that while Acer's Aspire One plays to the low-end mobile PC and netbook market, the Packard Bell brand and Acer's Predator laptop are shooting for the high-end, tech leader segment.In fact, so confident is Lanci in the call for greater notebook brand coverage, that he has set the company the challenge of reaching the global notebook top spot by 2011.

The Middle East, which accounts for around 10% of overall EMEA sales, is one of the fastest growing parts of the operation.

Krishna Murphy, general manager at Acer Middle East, is also adamant that the Middle East notebook market can absorb another brand and insists the channel is on its side.

"We have explained the multiple-brand strategy to our distributors and detailed the different customer segments that we are going to address and they are okay with that," said Murphy. "There will not be any multiple overlap between the two brands."

Murphy also defended Acer's classification of customers in the notebook market as relevant to the Middle East, even though some commentators suggest the market lacks the maturity of the vendor's other global markets.

"We will follow the global strategy that will be implemented with a bit of localisation in terms of the channel, such as in the incentive programmes," continued Murphy.

He promises that one of Acer's first priorities will be to train partners to ensure they are able to market the Packard Bell brand correctly and differentiate it from Acer's existing hardware.

Foreshadowed by the global economic showdown, Acer's customers in Europe have recently seen the vendor raise its prices, but it is a policy that Middle East management rules out happening here.

"That occurred mainly because of the euro and dollar fluctuations, but we always stick to the same currency and manage our market share with the right pricing so it is not going to happen here," asserted Murphy.

That is probably a good thing for Murphy and his team - they will have enough on their plate trying to establish Packard Bell as a major force in the Middle East during the weeks ahead.

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