Acer's channel strategy played a crucial role in helping it stand out from the rest of the PC crowd in 2004.
The Taiwanese vendor recorded the strongest growth of the top 10 PC players last year, displacing Toshiba from fifth place, according to year-end figures from market watcher iSuppli. The PC market itself grew by 13.4 per cent with 191.4 million units shipped, but Acer's growth rate was almost three times that figure.
Its own sales topped 6.4 million units, up by 44 per cent on 2003 and accounting for 3.4 per cent of worldwide PC shipments.
Acer is crediting much of its performance to its channel model, claiming that its strategy of dealing directly with resellers has allowed it to increase efficiency, while getting closer to its customers.
"If you look at the PC marketplace, the channel still controls a huge portion of the spend," said Joe D'Elia, research director at iSuppli.
"Look at the very big deals, where you would expect the vendor to be involved directly, and you'll find it's the channel players that are doing the business. Technically, the Acer products are on a par with their rivals - not better - but the way Acer prices them and deals with the channel is what it is making it so successful.
"Acer is offering the right products, operating the right strategy and focusing on the right markets. In the European market it is strong on the mobile front. We don't see it doing well in the corporate sector, but it is strong in the consumer and SME markets. In the latter, it is popular because IT departments do not control buying in the same way as in large firms."
John Turner, business manager at Acer distributor Midwich, said: "The [Acer] targets we have are for massive growth again this year. The range keeps getting bigger - from notebooks and PCs to LCD panels and PDAs.
"This year it will also launch digital cameras and projectors, but we will wait to see how they stack up to the competition before deciding whether or not to take them on. We aim to increase our Acer notebook reseller base by up to 40 per cent this quarter, and have numerous incentives in place to help us do it."
Notebook PCs continued to outgrow all other form factors in 2004, with a 22.1 per cent rise in unit shipments, bringing their share of the total PC market to 24 per cent. Entry-level servers also grew strongly by 19 per cent, while desktop PC shipments rose by 10.6 per cent, representing the lion's share of the market with 73.3 per cent.
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