Acer has stated that it has plans to enter the smartphone or 3G market. Announcing its business and consumer lineup for the coming months yesterday, the company hinted that it may be ready to launch a smartphone handset as early as the first half of next year.

The company is set to launch three new PDAs primed with both Bluetooth and GPS satellite navigation software. It was not yet decided on whether these would use the Destinator software used on its existing GPS-enabled PDAs or the popular Navman system.

However, UK product manager for notebooks and PDAs, James Harvey was able to confirm that the new PDAs, set for launch in January, represent “a first approach to the smartphone market”.

Another Acer product manager, Federico Carozzi, went on to say that it was likely the smartphones would resemble Blackberry or Treos in design, “but with more PDA functionality”.

In line with its position as the largest notebook manufacturer in Europe, the main focus of the new lineup was Acer’s range of notebooks.

Along with several new TravelMate business notebooks are a clutch of new Aspire laptops aimed at the consumer market. All the Aspires will sport widescreen displays and come with Acer’s Aspire Arcade software, a digital entertainment interface that operates much like Microsoft’s much-vaunted Media Center 2005 Edition machines.

Despite launching an Aspire desktop machine based around Microsoft’s Media Center Edition 2005 operating system in territories such as Australia, it remains cagey about the likelihood of a European launch.

According to James Harvey, “the Media Center issue is under evaluation”. However, Harvey was able to confirm that the company expects to offer notebook entertainment machines with internal and, possibly, external TV tuner options.

Acer has set itself some aggressive targets, not least in doubling its sales. According to figures released on 10th November by analysts IDC, Acer ranks fourth in the UK for notebook sales.

In 2002 and 2003 its sales grew at three times the rate of the market. This year’s aim was to double last year’s sales. Carozzi says it is on target to do so, with the goal for 2005 being to hit the number three slot in desktop PC sales.