All Eyes on Acer’s Smartphone Plans

Acer’s entry into the lucrative smartphone market is in full swing, with four upcoming handsets planned for rollout while executives hint that non-Windows based devices and an app store are under consideration for roll-out later this year.

The world’s third-largest PC vendor announced its first family of smartphones, called Tempo, last month at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona. The Tempo family is comprised of the M900, F900, X960 and DX900 and all of them use Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS. The phones are expected to be available in the next four or five months.

Acer’s new smartphone line comes as rumors abound that new hardware players, including Dell and Microsoft, are preparing their own smartphone launches this year. It seems everyone in the tech sector is scrambling to cash in on the smartphone market, pegged to grow even during the recession, but hardware manufacturers facing declining sales may have more at stake if they fail to capitalize on the opportunity.

Notable features of the M900, aimed at the business user, and F900, a more stylish device that’s more compact, include a 3.8-inch touchscreen with 800 x 480 resolution, the same as HTC’s Touch Diamond2 and TouchPro2, and a step up from Apple’s iPhone 3G, which is 480 X 320.

The M900 has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and comes equipped with GPS, FM Radio, voice recorder and voice-command, as well as expandable memory, and a 5-megapixel camera with flash and Wi-Fi connectivity. The F900 has the same features except the camera is 3.2-megapixels.

Rounding out the Tempo group is the Acer X960, which has a 2.8-inch VGA touchscreen and five-way navigation button, and the DX900, billed as a “Dual-SIM Smartphone” that supports both 3.5G (HSDPA) and 2.75G (EDGE) SIM cards.

Meanwhile, Acer appears to be preparing to release a non-Windows based smartphone later in the year, according to IDG News Service, which attributed the news to Acer reps in Taipei. It remains to be seen if these will run on Google’s mobile open source platform Android.

Right now, insiders are following Android developments carefully, waiting to see how the T-Mobile G1, the first Android smartphone out, will fare in the market. This buzz is being fueled by speculation that sales of smartphones using the Android platform will overtake the iPhone by 2012, as U.K.-based research firm Informa Telecoms and Media predicted in a recent report.

The Taiwan-based company is also reportedly considering opening an app store for its smartphone line. If the company follows through on this, it will join Apple with its wildly popular App Store for the iPhone, the Android Market for T-Mobile G1 and the BlackBerry App World for RIM enthusiasts, which goes live this month.

By press time, Acer reps in both the U.S. and Taipei had not returned calls asking for comment.

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