Asian PC Manufacturers Seek Market Share, not Contract Work, from West


Back in July of 2007, I wrote about how North American PC manufacturers would migrate more high-level operations such as R&D to Asian countries to keep up with the growing numbers of PC buyers in those locations. At that time, many observers were predicting that high-level R&D and product development would remain in North America in the near term, while applied R&D would shift to Taiwan and actual manufacturing would happen in China.


Fast forward, emphasis on fast. A little more than a year later, Dell has shifted much of its R&D to Shanghai and wants to sell its manufacturing facilities. It's already rolled out several low-cost computers geared toward India, China and other emerging markets. Microsoft and HP teamed earlier this year to open a technology center in Taiwan that is expected to generate $83 million in revenues within five years.


While these North American companies focus on Asia, they are facing competition from Asian manufacturers at home. Several Taiwanese tech companies are shifting their focus from manufacturing gear for companies like HP and Apple to taking on those companies as direct competitors. Among the companies aggressively pursuing the North American market are Acer, Asus and HTC, reports MercuryNews.com.


According to IDC research, the U.S. now accounts for about 25 percent of the global market for PCs, down from 31 percent in 2004. During the same period, the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan) has grown its share of the market to 25 percent. That's largely due to the falling prices of PCs, which puts them within reach of more of the world's population.


Acer went against conventional wisdom in 2000 when it split off its contract manufacturing business to focus on building its own brand. Since then, it has acquired Packard Bell in Europe and Gateway in the U.S. Its ambitious goals are to unseat HP as the world's top notebook vendor by 2011 and to increase its annual sales to $30 billion, up from $14 billion last year. Acer teamed with BMW to create a new line of lightweight laptops called Aspire.


Its efforts have begun paying off. It increased its share of the U.S. market from 2.3 percent in 2006's third quarter to nearly 8 percent in Q2 2008, according to IDC. With its focus on smaller, less expensive notebooks, Acer topped HP's sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa during the most recent quarter.


Another Asian PC manufacturer with big global aspirations is China's Lenovo, which has adopted an unusual business strategy featuring a lack of headquarters and, unlike Dell, an increase in manufacturing facilities.