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2/22/2011
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Acer Unveils Servers, Storage for U.S. Market

Sixteen servers, including tower, rack, and blade models will be available with three- or five-year onsite service contracts from the Taiwan-based computer maker.

Acer, best known in the U.S. as a maker of low-priced consumer PCs, is getting ready to sell storage and x86 commodity servers to U.S. businesses.

The Taiwanese company, which has sold servers and storage in Asia and Europe for years, says it will initially sell 16 servers in the U.S., including tower, rack, blade, and rack multi-node models. The systems will be available with either Intel Xeon processors or Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron chips. Acer will resell Hitachi storage products.

Acer has offered an extensive line of consumer PCs for quite awhile in the U.S., competing with other vendors primarily on price. Acer had a strong run through 2009, because of the popularity of its mini-laptops, called netbooks, during the height of the economic recession. Last year, however, consumer spending on PCs slowed with the rising popularity of tablets, particularly the Apple iPad. As a result, Dell in the fourth quarter of last year took back the title of the world's second largest computer maker in terms of shipments from Acer, which fell to number three, according to IDC. Acer in the quarter saw shipments fall 15% year to year.

Selling servers in the U.S. will add the business PC market as a battleground between Acer, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard. To compete effectively, Acer will need more than low prices. It will also have to provide onsite service.

"They have to have a really thorough partner network," Ezra Gottheil, analyst for Technology Business Research, said in an interview. "Our research says that servers and storage are bought with a very high percentage with onsite service contracts."

Acer's servers won't necessarily be the lowest priced, Todd Mottershead, senior manager for servers and storage in the U.S., said in an interview. "The servers are going to be priced very competitively, but not necessarily cheaper than the Dells and HPs of the world."

However, the company does plan to offer options, such as bigger hard drives and more memory, for less than HP and Dell. With 30% to 40% of the cost of a server coming from options, Mottershead believes Acer can offer a better deal.

Acer plans to offer three- or five-year onsite service contracts with its systems. Customers will also have the option of a guaranteed four-hour response time. Acer is contracting with Worldwide TechServices, which is the actual service provider.

Acer plans to announce over the next couple of weeks the names of the U.S. distributors for its servers and the Acer-branded Hitachi network attached storage that will be available with the systems. The latter includes the Acer AN1600 F1, which includes up to 12 SAS or SATA hot-plug drives in a 2U design.

Acer's manufacturer suggested retail price for its servers will start at $721.11 for the tower model, $1,105.52 for the rack server, $3,583.58 for the rack multi-node model, $2,299.99 for the blade server, and $10,499 for network attached storage. The company expects to expand the product portfolio later in the year.

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