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Gianfranco Lanci, CEO and President, Acer

Acer has been rapidly gaining notebook PC market share, and CEO and President Gianfranco Lanci in early November said the company next year will account for about half of the global market for low-cost PCs known as Netbooks.

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But despite Acer's growth, Lanci is relatively unknown in the U.S., where Acer has enjoyed less success than in other markets. Perhaps that's because when the Italian-born Lanci speaks, he does so in subdued tones and with a minimum of fanfare, in contrast to bombastic executives like Larry Ellison, Steve Ballmer, and Marc Benioff.

Lanci has been known to make bold statements, however. Last year, Lanci was one of the first executives to publicly criticize Microsoft over Windows Vista, telling the Financial Times "the whole industry is disappointed" with the OS. And in September at Acer's annual Global Press Conference, Lanci explained how the fading Gateway, eMachines, and Packard Bell brands that Acer gained via acquisition could actually help the company target new audiences.

Acer previously competed primarily on price, but Lanci now believes that the future battle for PC market share will be won by vendors that can attack multiple market segments with distinct brands. "If you want to differentiate, you can't do it only by price," Lanci said at the event.

Acer's U.S. channel partners agree that Acer has boosted the quality of its products in recent years, a move that is helping them increase sales to businesses. "Acer in the last few years has really stepped it up, and their product quality reputation has been improving," said Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Nor-Tech, a Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder.

At the same time, Acer has steadily built a reputation as a channel centric company, which suggests that perhaps Lanci's leadership has been making an impression on U.S. partners after all. "When we have an issue, there are people in the organization who are able to work it out with us," said Steve Ciarciello, President and CEO of Compudata, a Philadelphia-based solution provider. "We don't see lot of conflict out there in our sales approach to selling their products,"

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