Acer launched a new range of multimedia laptops in New York yesterday, with the Aspire 8920 and 6920 series featuring a new design the company is calling Aspire Gemstone blue.

The laptops, which come in both 18.4in and 16in versions, include a Blu-ray Disc drive, full high-definition (HD) LCD screens and support for the Dolby Pro Logic 2.0 surround-sound audio system.

Senior corporate vice president Jim Wong said the new design is aimed at bringing a "true multimedia innovation" to the laptop form factor. The laptops are based on Intel Core 2 Duo processors and run either Windows Vista Ultimate or the Windows Vista Home Premium OS because of the multimedia functionality those OSes can deliver. However, Wong said Acer would consider running a different OS - presumably Linux - on machines that don't require rich multimedia capability.

The New York event, which featured white-clad models carrying the laptops, was a US coming-out party of sorts for the Taiwanese computer-maker. Acer is eager to woo US consumers now that it is offering not only its own laptops here, but also eMachine computers from Packard Bell and PCs from US computer-maker Gateway, the acquisition of which Acer revealed last August.

See also:

Acer completes Gateway acquisition

Acer buys Packard Bell to thwart Lenovo

In his first official press appearance in the US, Acer President Gianfranco Lanci clarified Acer's branding strategy going forward, saying products from all three companies will remain in the market under their own names. "We didn't buy a company to kill the brand," he said.

Lanci said Acer plans to keep all three brands in the US and Europe, although Gateway computers - including the eMachines brand - will be sold in "some countries only". In Asia and the US, the Acer and Gateway brands will be most prominent, including the Gateway eMachines brand in the US Lanci said Acer is basing its brand distribution on how well the different products sell in each geographic area.

Having all three brands also will diversify Acer's market penetration across its three main geographical regions, broadening its reach in the US while reducing the amount of business that comes from Europe, he added.

For the most part, Acer will keep the design of each of the three brands consistent with their current design. The new Aspire Gemstone "blue" design unveiled on Wednesday, for instance, will only be used for Acer notebooks.

Details of the European release of the Aspire 8920 and 6920 were not immediately available.

Related sections:

Laptop reviews

Laptop Advisor