Dell taking aim at iPod Mini?

PC maker plans to talk consumer electronics this week, and the conversation could turn to a "Pocket DJ."

Dell is expected to expand its line of line of consumer electronics this week, possibly taking the wraps off of a challenger to Apple Computer's iPod Mini music player.

The Round Rock, Texas, PC maker is likely to unveil a diminutive portable music player on Thursday as part of a broad-based discussion of its consumer electronics strategy for the 2004 holiday season at an event in New York, sources familiar with its plans indicated.

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Such a device--a Dell "Pocket DJ"--made a brief cameo during Bill Gates' keynote at Microsoft's digital media event in Los Angeles on Tuesday. However, a Dell representative offered no further details on the diminutive player.

Dell began its current foray into consumer electronics last fall with products such as the Digital Jukebox portable music player, Media Center PCs and flat-screen televisions. The company, which also sells printers, aims to use its consumer electronics gear to gain a position in the so-called digital home market, where consumers use technology to share multimedia such as music and movies between PCs and more traditional electronic devices such as televisions and stereos.

Because of their extensive relationships with both consumers and suppliers of screens, hard drives and other components used to build electronics, PC makers including Dell and Hewlett-Packard have been eyeing consumer electronics as a new area of potential growth for some time. Despite a mixed track record, successes by some products, particularly the iPod, have shown it's possible for computer makers to compete with established consumer brands, such as Sony, and to win over consumers.

While Dell continues to focus on business products such as servers, the company aims to carve out a niche in consumer electronics as well. A new Dell DJ may be afoot, as Engadget reported earlier this week that Dell will offer a diminutive music player named the Dell Pocket DJ 5 and will sell it for $199, alongside a new version of the 20GB Dell DJ 20, which will sell for $249.

Right now Dell sells DJ 15 and DJ 20 models with 15GB and 20GB of storage capacity, for $199 and $279, respectively.

Still, the new players will rank as only one aspect of a broader line of consumer electronics products from Dell for the 2004 holiday season. The company on Tuesday unveiled plans for a new line of Media Center PCs based on Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center 2005 operating system, along with its Axim X50 handheld and a Windows Media Extender, a device that allows its Media Center PCs to share content with other devices throughout a person's house. The Axim X50 offers a 3.7-inch screen and starts at $299.

Dell also began advertising a new 19-inch LCD TV on its Web site this week, adding to its TV line, which currently offers LCD-screen models in sizes up to 30 inches. The 19-inch TV lists for $899, but was on sale for $849 on Tuesday afternoon, the site shows.

Dell has also been prepping a plasma-screen TV and a portable photo printer, which are also likely to be unveiled on Thursday, sources suggest. Dell made public the plans to offer at least one plasma-screen TV for the holidays, earlier this year. As previously reportedthe new photo printer is a portable machine that's capable of turning out 4-inch-by-6-inch prints.

A Dell spokesperson declined to elaborate on the company's future consumer electronics plans.

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