Dell Gets Serious With Fun and Games

PC powerhouse Dell this week unveiled its latest line of ultra high-end PCs in its XPS computers and new digital televisions in a quest to capture the usual gaming and technology enthusiast, early-adopter PC market.

Although much attention has been paid to the next-generation Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles from Microsoft and Sony, Dell said it was responding to top-of-the market technology demands with the new machines, which will feature dual-core Pentium D processors, Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 and 17-inch flat panel displays, starting at US$1,099 for desktops and $2,699 for an XPS notebook.

Dell chairman Michael Dell said the new PCs address “the growing sophistication of consumers who are using computers for advanced multimedia and entertainment applications in environments ranging from dens and offices to living rooms, gaming rooms and home theaters,” according to a statement.

Industry analysts indicated the central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing power of the new PCs put them ahead of consoles, which nevertheless enjoy a dominant share of the gaming market.

Extreme Users

Dell said the updated, high-end XPS line will first consist of three desktop computers, the XPS M170 notebook and two digital televisions, including a 50-inch plasma HDTV.

“We’re consistently hearing a call for performance, power and style as more consumers see the value of expanding the computer’s use for productivity and entertainment,” Michael Dell said in a statement.

Dell said the XPS models — also featuring Nvidia’s latest XPS 600 graphics technology, were immediately available in the United States, and that more models are to be introduced over time.

Suped-Up Silicon

Gartner research Vice President Martin Reynolds told TechNewsWorld the new PCs featured the “highest end part” from Nvidia for graphics, putting them on par or perhaps ahead of the latest consoles.

In terms of CPU, Reynolds said the dual-core Intel processors in Dell’s latest high-end machines are more capable than the PowerPC and Cell processors of the next-gen Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation 3, although there is some uncertainty as to the exact capabilities of the PS3’s new Cell processor.

“The real challenge is, PCs will move ahead and next year, consoles will start to look relatively slower again,” Reynolds said.

He referred to a sort of leapfrogging between consoles and PCs, where consoles can initially jump ahead performance-wise, but are typically matched by PCs of lower cost over the course of a couple of years.

Market and Margins

While consoles enjoy more of a mainstream, mass appeal, the ultra high-end PC gaming market still manages to move one million units a year, according to Reynolds.

Referring to another challenge for game developers, who must keep up with hardware advances, the analyst indicated that the larger price-tag on the high-end PCs encourages companies like Dell to continue pushing forward.

Reynolds also called out the increasing power requirements of such high-performance PCs as an issue that not all consumers may be familiar with.

“They are not only expensive to buy, they’re expensive to run,” he said. “PCs, if you don’t turn them off, can make a big bump in the electricity bill.”

PC Gaming Perseveres

Parks Associates senior analyst Michael Cai told TechNewsWorld that although PC gaming software sales are down, there is still an audience of core gamers who spend significant amounts of time and money updating their gaming PCs, something that cannot be done with consoles over their lifetime of about five years.

Referring to a variety of companies that have an interest in the continuation of the PC gaming market — Dell, Intel, Microsoft and many others — Cai said he agreed with Michael Dell that PC gaming is not dying.

“Overall, I think we will still have a pretty good PC gaming market,” he said, noting the growth of online gaming.

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