Dell to offer new Webpc line of consumer PCs
Added: (Tue Nov 30 1999)
Pressbox (Press Release) -
NEW YORK, Nov 30, Dell is getting cute. By Eric Auchard
Dell Computer Corp. (NasdaqNM:DELL - news), the world's No. 2 personal computer maker, said it will unveil on Tuesday a new generation of small and stylish Intel-based consumer desktop PCs that do away with the austere functionalism of traditional PCs.
Dell's long-anticipated Webpc, as the new computers are known, take up roughly one third the desktop space of a typical pizza-box shaped PC and come in at least five designer colors, echoing a strategy pioneered by Apple Computer Inc. (NasdaqNM:AAPL - news).
Prices start at $1,000 for a complete package that includes a computer running an Intel Celeron 433 megahertz chip, a standard 15-inch monitor with built-in speakers, a printer and one year of the company's Dellnet Internet access service.
The Webpc introduction, timed to coincide with the holiday PC shopping rush, positions Dell to meet rising demand for an emerging category of color-coordinated, industrially designed PCs that fit the decor of rooms other than the home office.
"The Webpc is for consumers looking for a really hassle-free solution that allows a user to surf the Web, play games and use office applications when working at home," John Medica, vice president and general manager of Dell's Web Products Group, said in a phone interview on Monday.
By offering a complete package, Dell has broken with its typical practice of offering a la carte pricing that allow consumers to mix-and-match computer chips and other components, hard disk drive and peripherals to create a customized PC.
Taking advantage of its direct-selling capacity via the Web at http://www.webpc.com or over the telephone, Dell is set to take orders Tuesday and ship the products in the first half of next month. Orders take five to eight days to fill and those made by mid-December could be ready for Christmas, Medica said.
The Webpc comes in two additional configurations, including a 466 megahertz-based Webpc priced at $1,099 that includes an optional flat-panel display for another $850 or $1,949 in total. A 500 megahertz Intel Pentium III-based model starts at $1,499, or $2,349 with flat-panel display.
The Webpc weighs 10 pounds, is six inches wide, 11 inches high and 10 inches deep. The box comes in shades of blue, orange, teal, red and purple. Printers and external floppy disk drives come in complementary colors of blue or gray.
In addition, Dell is offering up to six different peripheral products for the Webpc, including such devices as a digital scanner, a videogame joy stick or a digital camera.
The Webpc is the latest in a new class of PCs that take advantage of smaller motherboards, or internal chassis, from top PC chip maker Intel Corp. (NasdaqNM:INTC - news) and new simpler connector technology known as Universal Serial Bus (USB).
Earlier this month, Compaq introduced a similarly small, $499 PC that is aimed a office workers, not consumers. In October, Gateway introduced a new all-in-one PC that looks like Apple's iMac consumer computer. The Gateway Astro is priced at $799 for the PC, or just under $1,000 with a printer and Internet access service -- in line with Dell's Webpc offer.
Van Baker, a consumer PC analyst with industry research firm Dataquest of San Jose, Calif., said Dell's Webpc could be a hit with consumers who are intimidated by all the decisions involved in traditional PCs. "It's a nicely done product. I think it will have appeal," Baker said.
However, he speculated that Dell's decision to bundle the various elements of the Webpc in a single package may be an artful way around the company's recent shortage of certain components, including memory chips and flat-panel displays.
Dell plans to continue to sell its existing Dimension line of standard consumer PCs, its Inspiron line of notebooks and other products using its traditional a la carte pricing.
Baker said Dell is the first to market such smaller PCs to consumer. It can do so in the final run-up to the holidays because its direct sales approach via the Web allows consumers to quickly order such new models. He contrasted Dell's speed to Compaq, the world's No. 1 PC maker, which must pre-build and sell consumer PCs largely through retail outlets.
Medica said Dell planned to undertake a new advertising push on television, outdoor billboards, including subway stations and bus shelters, and online banners ads designed to differentiate the Webpc consumer brand from its traditional marketing, which has been aimed at tech-savvy PC buyers.
Based on the campaign pitch 'Born to Web,' the ads target the so-called 'cyber-psyched' -- enthusiastic technology users who may care less about individual components. The category includes 19- to 25-year-old first-time buyers and 35- to 60-year-olds who may be looking for a second PC when they are away from their office machines, he said.
Ahead of the new product introduction, Dell shares closed up 13/16 of a point on Monday at 43-3/4 in Nasdaq stock market trading.