Acer Will Release a Smartphone in China

Acer will release a smartphone in China late this year or early next year as the country launches next-generation mobile networks that could boost the market for such handsets.

The world's number-three PC vendor is in talks with Chinese mobile carriers about offering a smartphone for their networks, a company spokeswoman said Thursday, declining to give details.

Acer will also expand its presence in China by doubling its sales outlets there to 800 this year and building a research and development base in Shanghai, its first in the country, the spokeswoman said.

In February, Acer released its first smartphones, a group of handsets called Tempo that all use Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS.

The Taiwanese firm has said it will release its first non-Windows smartphone in the second half of this year, though it has not said what OS it will use.

China's big mobile carriers will launch three different 3G (third generation) networks this year. Acer will release a product in cooperation with China Unicom, one of those carriers, late this year, a report on Sina.com cited Acer China head Oliver Ahrens as saying.

China Unicom's network will run on a 3G standard widely used outside China known as WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access).

China's smartphone market could grow with the launch of 3G networks, though fewer applications for the devices are available in China than abroad, said Francis Cheung, head telecom analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets.

The high-tech image of smartphones has already made them popular with upper-end Chinese users and Acer would enter a huge but competitive market by releasing its own handset, said Ye.

"They'll have to struggle with everyone else," Cheung said.

Sales of Acer's notebooks, its mainstay product in China, have grown at a rate well beyond the Chinese industry average for the last two years, and its netbook sales in the country have risen even faster, said Simon Ye, an analyst at Gartner.

But Acer's share of the overall Chinese PC market has suffered from dislike of its desktops, which are larger than models from Chinese vendors like Lenovo or Founder, Ye said.

Up to 70 percent of PCs used in China are desktops, said Ye.

Acer's expanding ties with regional dealers helped boost its PC shipments in China to 334,000 in the third quarter of 2008, a rise of more than 46 percent from a year earlier, according to a report by IDC.

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