Acer rises to Dell’s kiosk challenge

Acer rises to Dell’s kiosk challenge

Acer has picked up the gauntlet thrown down by Dell’s recently announced plans for multimedia kiosks. Less than a week after its direct-dealing competitor opened the doors of its first outlet in Sydney, Acer has said it plans to open its own versions within mass merchant stores during the next four to six weeks.

Acer’s national channel manager, Greg Mikaelian, said the vendor had been working closely with a host of retailers – including Harvey Norman, Dick Smith, and Retravision — but denied the scheme was being launched in retaliation against Dell’s kiosks.

He said it had been planned for several months.

“The retailers already have a form of this available, but not in a formal kiosk,” he said. “We’re finalising our plans and we’ll have it deployed in the second half of this year.

“I assure you, Dell will be outnumbered by the channel. They’ll be surrounded by Acer kiosks all around Australia. Dell will have one or two, we’ll have a lot more than that,” he said.

Acer has also launched a new channel initiative, Delivery Now, to support its aim of becoming the leading PC vendor in the local SMB and SOHO market by 2005, according to Mikaelian.

The initiative commits Acer to dispatch same-day desktop and notebook models to channel partners that are in stock at time of order and aims to address growing urgency among customers.

Central to the new approach, Mikaelian said, would be the channel partner e-commerce sites, AcerLink and APeC. Through these sites, Acer partners could identify models that were immediately available and any orders placed would be dispatched from Acer’s Sydney warehouse on the same day.

“We’ve got a channel leveraged model that is unique,” Mikaelian said. “We apply an e-commerce tool through the channel that gives our partners in distribution the ability to up-sell or customise orders to personal needs. Not unlike Dell online.”

Acer’s ability to deliver on this promise is in part based on a flexible approach with notebooks and PCs coming preconfigured. Mikaelian said Acer had spent the past few months assessing popular upgrade requirements, which included optical, memory and hard drive configurations.

These models had now been pre-configured and were ready to go.

“They can see what’s available and what’s not. If they pick a model that isn’t there, they have other options, other models,” Mikaelian said. “We have four different models of PC and four or five models of notebooks available at any point in time.”

The initiative is also a way to take back market share from whitebox manufacturers, according to Mikaelian, which he said accounted for half of the local SMB market. Acer would target this market share by leveraging off its brand name and aggressive pricing.

“Customers want a brand and flexibility, with less risk. Dealers can sit down with a customer and walk through customisation together,” he said. “They can play an active role in value adding.”

IDC’s PC analyst, Mike Sager, put the announcement in context:

* Acer Australia had its biggest operating period ever in Q1 2004

* But it needs to gain acceptance in the large corporate space

* It will also need to increase its channel breadth

* HP has channel breadth and solutions

* Dell still has best direct model

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