NEW YORK—In an ongoing effort to reinvent and reinvigorate itself, Dell is launching a new set of desktops, laptops and services specifically aimed at the smallest of small businesses.
The new PC product line—called Vostro—debuted at an event for analysts and customers at the Reuters Building in Times Square July 10. These PCs, along with the services that Dell began offering Tuesday, are specifically geared toward businesses that employ between one and 25 people.
Included in the launch are a desktop model, the Vostro 200, which comes in two different form factors—a mini tower and a slim-tower—along with four different notebooks with a range of features and configurations.
At the New York City event, Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell, said the company surveyed about 2,000 small and midsize business customers and found that most wanted to simplify their IT needs and wanted tools—hardware and services —that made its easier to set up a business.
“We are very proud of what Vostro represents,” Dell said. “Todays announcement is more than just products, its also about services…We are building services that address some of the biggest headaches that our customers face.”
In addition to the companys direct sales model, Michael Dell said both the hardware and the services can be purchased through VARs who work with the companys channel program.
Tuesdays launch of Vostro marked a change for Dell as the company signaled that it was moving away from its previous stance of selling Latitude notebooks and OptiPlex desktops to all of its business customers. Instead, Vostro is dedicated to a specific segment of the market.
In addition, Dell is focusing on part of the market—SMB—that is increasingly important to both itself and its competitors, namely Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
The launch also showed off some new industrial designs that Dell is hoping will make its PCs more attractive. In a roundtable discussion after the event, Michael Dell said that PC design is an area that his company will focus more of its energy on in the coming months.
“We are looking at it [industrial design] across the board but I think with mobile computers, theres a heightened awareness,” Dell said. “We have spent a lot of energy and attention to understanding [our customers preferences] in regards to design.”
There are some elements missing from the launch of Vostro product line. For example, the company did not introduce a dedicated server for SMBs.
Dell will also not offer factory-installed Linux with this new line of PCs, however company executives noted that Linux operating systems remain a possibility in future updates. Right now, Dell only offers Ubuntu Linux with its consumer PCs.
For now, Dell is offering PCs with the option of either Microsoft Windows Vista operating systems or XP.
In addition to these new PCs, Dell launched a new set of services aimed at this part of small businesses users. Besides options such as online storage and simplified network setup, Dell executives said the company was eliminating so-called “trialware,” such as AOL, that had been installed on PCs.
Dell will continue to pre-install its own software—although customers will have the option of removing those applications as well—in addition to tools such as Google Desktop and anti-virus software.
Some of the services that Dell is offering include DataSafe Online, which allows for up to 10GB of remote storage through a secure Internet connection, and Network Assistant, which allows customers to set up and connect to wired or wireless office networks.
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On the hardware side, Dell will mainly offer desktops and notebooks that use Intel microprocessors, although the company introduced a basic laptop model that will offer customers a range of Advanced Micro Devices chips, including the dual-core Turion 64 X2 processor.
The Vostro 200 desktop can be configured with a range of Intel processors, ranging from the Celeron processor to the several Core 2 Duo models. The PC offers up to 4GB of RAM—Dell is still recommending 2GB for models with Vista—and a serial ATA (SATA) hard disk drive with a maximum storage capacity of 1TB.
The desktop models also offers a total of six USB ports and a total of four PCI slots, including a PCI Express 16X card for dedicated graphics. The minimum prices for the desktop models range from $319 for the mini tower to $349 for the slim tower desktop.
On the laptop side, Dell introduced the Vostro 1000, its AMD-based model, which includes a 15.4-inch display, 2GB of RAM and an HDD (hard disk drive) with a maximum capacity of 120GB. The starting price for this notebook is $499
The other three models, the Vostro 1400, 1500 and 1700, are based on Intel processors and offer the new Centrino Duo mobile platform, including Core 2 Duo processors. (Dell will not be offering the Centrino Pro platform with its new lineup.)
These three notebooks offers displays ranging from 14.1-inches to 17-inches, integrated or dedicated graphics, a maximum of 4GB of RAM, support for draft 802.11n wireless LAN (WLAN) technology and built in broadband technology.
The starting prices for these three notebooks range from $549 to $799, according to Dell.
IT analyst Charles King told eWeek that Dell is on the right track if it wants to get the attention of small businesses using Vostro.
“Creating a business-class machine thats very aggressively priced, way below $1,000, is news,” King said. “Also, getting the trialware off the machine sounds like a minor issue, but if you had to get rid of all that extra software — take one and multiply it by 10, 20 or 30 machines, and you get the idea — it can be a real pain.”
The fact that Dell is focusing on the extreme low-end of the business spectrum (one to 25 employees) is interesting, King said.
“Typically, the definition of small business is one to 99 employees,” King said. “Whats really interesting is thats where the huge growth opportunity is. Some vendors call the low-end of the SMB market the micro-market. This is a perfect time to create a specialized product line for that market.
“They see an opportunity here; they alluded to a very interesting point: Dell has been trying very hard to expand its sales overseas, to entrepreneurial small businesses. This new product line should go over very well in places like China and India, going up against HP and Lenovo,” King said.