An aggressive price play in the consumer space has seen Acer take everybody by surprise and leap to the top of the local notebook market, according to the latest unit shipment figures from IDC.
The market analyst firm credited Acer with a 20.7 per cent share of the market in Q2, pipping HP to the top spot by just 0.1 per cent. Toshiba came in third (16.2 per cent) ahead of Dell (15.0) and Lenovo (7.7). More than 320,000 units were shipped in total.
While the numbers only track sales into the channel, rather than to end-users, it is still an exceptional result for Acer.
As previously reported in ARN, Acer broke the $1000 notebook barrier back in June with an Intel-based Extensa 2350 series offered through Officeworks and Big W. It has since broken that barrier again with an AMD-based Aspire 3000 sold through the mass merchant channel.
The move propelled the Taiwanese vendor from fourth spot to first in the space of a quarter. Furthermore, its market share has almost doubled in a year. But it did leave a bad taste in the mouth for some of its traditional resellers, who expressed concerns at the time that they had not been granted access to such a significantly priced unit.
Acer marketing director, Raymond Vardanega, refused to be drawn on whether the company had any plans to introduce a sub-$1000 model to its wider channel but said it had not intended to disadvantage any of its partners. He pointed to the TravelMate 2300 - which was available through commercial dealers for $1099 and had a slightly higher specification - as proof of it wider value proposition.
Acer's success in Q2 could start a price war at the bottom of the market with Harvey Norman already offering a Compaq Presario M2217AP for $994 (including $100 cashback from HP) and Dell's flexible price list also dipping below four figures at times. But Vardanega said he didn't expect a war to materialise.
"I don't think there will be a full-on price war because a lot of fiscal responsibility is still in play," he said. "I can remember a desktop price war about four years ago that saw a couple of vendors, including Gateway, leave the retail space or pull out of the Australian market completely. It isn't good for the industry."
IDC's PC analyst, Mike Sager, said Q2 was one of the most interesting periods in the history of the local market for two reasons.
"It doesn't make sense because Q2 is usually weak in the consumer market," he said.
"But Acer has had a lot of success through its partnership with Big W - that is a channel that wasn't even part of the market this time last year.
"The $999 price point is sure to be attractive to some of the other vendors. There won't be any let-off because we are headed toward Christmas."
Although it was aggressive pricing in consumer channels that fired Acer to the top of the pile, Sager said the vendor had also enjoyed a good quarter in the commercial section of the market.
"Acer has always been strong in the education and government verticals of the commercial market but it is now trying to build better presence in SME," he said.
"It is winning some key corporate accounts, like the [mostly desktop] NSW Police deal, and is always very aggressive. "On the deals we track, it always seems to be at the bottom or next to bottom when it comes to pricing."
Sager also said the market was starting to fragment as different vendors jostled for position.
"Only companies with strong autonomy from global headquarters, the ability to manufacture and a good channel play would be able to compete at the bottom end. I don't think Lenovo will play because it won't want to give away the ThinkPad brand name," he said. "Asus definitely has the capacity and Toshiba does too but it depends if that is a strategy it wants to use. Just because you can doesn't mean you should."