Taiwan-based computer manufacturer Acer announced a move into the mobile phone market on Monday, unveiling its first range of high-end handsets at an industry event in Barcelona.
The group, best known for its laptops, unveiled eight "smartphones" that have Internet and powerful processing and memory capabilities as well as core phone functionality.
"The smartphone market is a natural direction of our long-term mobile strategy," said chief executive Gianfranco Lanci during a press conference at Mobile World Congress.
The first four handsets are expected to go on sale worldwide in March or April, marketing manager Sylvia Pan told AFP.
The touch-screen phones, demonstrated here mostly in black with a design that resembles the top-selling Apple iPhone, will connect to the Internet via a Wi-Fi connection and run with the Windows mobile operating system.
The move illustrates two trends in the mobile phone industry: the growing attractiveness of the high-end market for "smartphones" and the arrival of traditional laptop computer makers in this segment.
Laptop maker Toshiba already manufactures handsets and rumours abound that US rival Dell is preparing to launch its own range.
Sales of smartphones, the industry term for high-end powerful handsets, are forecast to grow by 15 percent year-on-year for the five years, predicted head of phones at Acer, Aymar de Delenqcuesaing.
Lanci underlined that "for a large part of the world population the first opportunity to connect to the Internet will be via mobile computing, either through smartphones or netbooks."
Acer had indicated its desire to enter the mobile phone market last year when it acquired Taiwanese handset manufacturer E-Ten.
Analyst Nick Lane of mobile phone consultancy Direct2 Mobile said that high-end smartphones were "still only a tiny percentage of the market" but that this would change as prices come down because of competition.
"The high-end device of today will be the midrange device tomorrow," he told AFP.
The first Acer models will be called DX900, X960, M900 and F900.
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