Taiwan’s Acer to buy Gateway

Acer already sells computers at retail in the U.S., as done Gateway, both under the company name and as eMachines, which it purchased in 2004. And as part of the deal, Gateway says it will exercise its rights to acquire control to PB (Packard Bell). It’s all fairly complicated, because Lap Shun Hui had owned eMachines and sold it to Gateway, becoming a shareholder in Gateway; then acquired Packard Bell, which is a leading computer seller in Europe. Hui offered to buy Gateway outright last year, but was turned down. Earlier this year, both Acer and Lenovo apparently tried to buy Packard Bell, but Gateway had a right of first refusal to acquire PB (Packard Bell), due to a non-compete agreement with Hui. Meanwhile, Gateway says it is in discussions to sell its professional business, focused on education, government, and business customers, to an undisclosed third party.

The bottom line is that, if everything goes according to plan, Acer will have its own brand, as well as Gateway, eMachines, and PB, all aimed at consumers. That will make it clearly the number 3 personal computer maker in the world, behind Dell and HP/Compaq, and ahead of Lenovo.

But what does this all mean for consumers? Clearly, it means Acer will be the new big competitor against HP in retail stores, though of course Apple, Lenovo, Sony, and Toshiba will continue to compete there as well.

Less clear is whether Acer will be able to give each of its brands a distinct identity in such stores. That’s a tough proposition — even HP has largely failed to keep Compaq a distinct brand after that acquisition. You can still get Compaq machines, but they are mostly just lower-priced, relatively indistinct computers…

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