Netbooks shore up Acer results during first quarter

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Acer's popular netbook, the Aspire One, shored up the company's sales in the first quarter as consumers reined in spending amid a global recession.

"Consumers are so picky, they don't want to spend one dollar more than they really need," said Acer chairman J.T. Wang, during the company's first-quarter investors conference in Taipei on Wednesday.

"That's a global business problem," he said.

The world's third-largest PC vendor posted first-quarter sales of NT$119.1 billion (US$3.54 billion), down 7 percent from NT$127.4 billion in the same period last year. Acer's net profit was NT$2.03 billion, down from NT$2.95 billion last year.

The company's shipments and sales would have been much worse had it not been for the Aspire One, Wang said.

People sought out low-cost devices such as netbooks and ignored high end computing products during the first quarter, he said.

Business has been improving recently. Acer forecast slightly improved sales in the second quarter compared to the first quarter.

The company also said it's aiming to slip past Dell and become the second-largest computer vendor in the world this year.

"We are getting very close to Dell," said Gianfranco Lanci, Acer's president and CEO.

The company played down suggestions that there might be a disruption in the PC market later this year caused by the switch to Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 7.

The fear is that consumers and businesses will put off buying new desktops and laptops until Windows 7 actually hits the market.

But Lanci said that people buying PCs with Windows Vista Premium will likely get free upgrades to Windows 7, though he said he did not entirely understand how Microsoft planned to run its upgrade program.

"Everything we ship is compliant with Windows 7," he said.

Wang said people will like Windows 7.

"This time [Microsoft] has made a friendly user interface, something they have forgotten to do for 10 years," he said.

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