Acer, the world's third-largest PC vendor, said shipments of its Aspire one netbook could reach 6 million units this year, which would edge out Asustek Computer's popular Eee PC at the top of the market.
Asus has set a target for Eee PC shipments this year of 5 million, which would be a million shy of the lead if Acer meets its target.
The defeat may not be easy for Asus to accept since the company has largely been responsible for popularizing the netbook idea commercially with the Eee PC.
Asus launched the Eee PC late last year to great fanfare at its small size and price. The least expensive Eee PC at the time came with a 7-inch screen and an NT$7999 (US$240) price tag.
Acer is gaining ground fast with its Aspire one, which it announced in June this year.
Netbooks are mini-laptop PCs designed for mobility, typically sporting 7-inch to 10-inch screens and weighing less than 2 kilograms. Most netbook components, including the microprocessor, are less powerful than those of full-fledged laptops so batteries last longer. Netbooks aer designed for dealing with e-mail, browsing the Internet and working on word processor or spreadsheet documents, not for heavy duty gaming, video editing or other multimedia work.
On Thursday, Asus forecast fourth-quarter shipments of the Eee PC at between 1.6 million and 1.8 million units, compared to 1.7 million units in the third quarter. Acer, by comparison, said its Aspire one shipments reached 2.4 million units in the third quarter and it expects fourth quarter shipments to exceed that amount.
"The netbook segment is growing very nicely," said Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci during the company's third quarter investors' conference in Taipei on Friday.
Next year, Acer will ship 12 million to 15 million Aspire ones, he said. Asustek declined to comment on 2009 Eee PC shipments.
The main difference between the two Taiwanese companies is size. Acer's revenue in the third quarter was NT$159.2 billion, more than twice the NT$78.3 billion revenue at Asus. Acer ranks behind only Hewlett-Packard and Dell in the global PC market.
Acer's bigger size gives it the ability to launch products in most markets across the globe simultaneously, while Asustek has been building its marketing and sales channels throughout the year.