Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Dell XPS Laptop: Still Pretty Dull

by Tom Bozzo

Imagine — makers of formerly beige boxes are looking to style for product differentiation:
Chicago Tribune, as noted by James Coates in the Chicago Tribune:
Chicago Tribune: By design, Apple's competitors playing catch-up: ...New projects at Dell, Toshiba and IBM among others focus on developing computers and gear that appeal for the sheer beauty of their design rather than just getting a job done.

A few days ago Michael Dell, founder and head gearhead in charge at Dell Computer Inc., went to New York's pricey Ritz Carlton hotel on Central Park South to announce a burnished metal-clad laptop dubbed XPS, which emulates Apple's to-die-for tungsten-encased [sic] PowerBook.

Looking over the specs for the XPS laptop, I conclude that they don't actually get it.
Slapping on pieces of shiny metal is not, in itself, a hallmark good design.

This is not to say that the style factor wasn't important in the purchase of my '01 Titanium PowerBook. But so was its travel weight (light) and price (less than the comparable IBM ThinkPads of the day, contrary to Apple's lingering reputation for making expensive hardware). I was able to pity business travelers burdened by brick-like PC craptops for many reasons. The Titanium is still a perfectly usable computer for Office-type business apps, and for my money is still the best looking laptop around.

And, indeed, while the XPS is probably a decent enough luggable for gamers, the beast outweighs the 17" (aluminum) PowerBook by 1.7 lb and the more travel-worthy 15"er by a whopping three pounds — and more still if you throw in the AC adapter. Six pounds is about all I'd willingly lug on a business trip. Oh, and the XPS is priced as high (or as low, depending on your perspective) as the smaller and lighter 17" Powerbook. That may be enough to swipe some share from other PC brands' luggables, but hardly an enticement to an Apple intender.
That thing is fugly. Remeber the WebPC? Dell should definitely stick to selling inexpensive, ugly computers, as opposed to more costly ugly ones.

I also noticed that they have name problems. Their new mp3 player is dubbed the "DJ Ditty." I am not sure it is possible to come up with a more annoying name than that.
The aesthetics may be tuned to the gamer market (at least, that portion of the gamer market that has unlimited access to parental funds). The customizable colored lights around the perimeter of the case? Classy.
I use to work for Dell back when I was in Undergrad. The XPS is all about margin. I'm still sort of an industry inside on PCs.... If you are going to buy a "off the shelf" type computer, I'd go with an HP right now
Tetricus: As a Mac partisan, Dell vs. HP is sort of like choosing Janice Rogers Brown vs. Priscilla Owen.

I'm sure your right about their margin-seeking; I do wonder if the gamer market is the most profitable for a high-margin laptop.
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