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PC Vendors Eyeing Smartphone Market

New York
– The continued proliferation of smartphones may seriously challenge the laptop
and netbook market for consumer dollars unless PC vendors can break into the
handheld market.

This is according to Roberta Cozza, a principal research analyst
with Gartner, who is forecasting a switch in consumer spending habits that,
starting in 2010, will see more dollars being spent on smartphones than
consumer notebooks.

Acer America,
while a strong proponent of smartphones and other mobile devices, is not worried
about losing sales.

“There has been minimal cannibalization of notebooks due to the
growing popularity of netbooks, so we’re not concerned about smartphones
impacting sales of notebooks or netbooks. We’re focused on creating seamless
integration between all mobile devices,” said Dan Gralak, who heads Acer’s
smartphones initiative in the U.S.

Cozza expects all the major PC vendors to announce plans to
expand their smartphone presence by the end of 2009.

She believes it will become crucial for PC vendors to emulate
Apple by making a big splash in the smartphone category. However, successfully
making the switch will be incredibly difficult for the manufacturers due to the
inherent differences between the categories.

Long accustomed to turning out high-quality hardware-centric
computers, Cozza said, the computer companies will have to adjust to a world
where the application, not feature set, is king.

“Apple is not a hardware company – it is a software and services
company,” Cozza said.

Complicating the PC vendors’ efforts will be how picky the
cellular carrier stores are when it comes to taking on new partners. One way to
ingratiate themselves with the carriers will be to create a thoroughly
differentiated product line, Cozza said.

However, the netbook angle may prove to be a double-edged sword
for the computer makers as more smartphone companies, such as Nokia, enter the
netbook space.

Another plus in the PC camp’s favor are the recent relationships
many have developed surrounding their netbook products. In addition, the
computer vendors have a proven track record of delivering a solid product to
the carriers, thus eliminating one worry for the carriers.

“I think they can leverage their mini-note relationships, but
they still might find it’s not that automatic to be accepted,” she added.

A few computer firms have already expressed a great deal of
interest in the smartphone category.

Netbook maker Asus has teamed up with Garmin to produce the Nuvi
smartphone, and Acer has introduced several models outside the U.S.

“The smartphone market is the natural direction of our long-term
mobile strategy as our ambition is to offer compelling solutions to all the
needs of mobile users. Our experience has given us the ability to listen to the
market, but also the capacity to anticipate it. We’re not only spectators of consumer’s
lives; we’re active participants in their desires and choices,” Gianfranco
Lanci, president and CEO of Acer, said earlier this year.