Dell to launch 'Lexus lineup' of PCs

Company revisits high-end customers with desktops and laptops sporting more bells and whistles.

SAN FRANCISCO--Dell will launch a new premium brand targeted at high-end home customers, the company announced on Thursday.

The No. 1 PC maker said the as-of-yet unnamed brand, which is slated to debut this fall, would include both desktop and notebooks priced between $1,200 and $3,500 and positioned just above the company's Dimension and Inspiron product families.

"Consider this the Lexus of our lineup," Mike George, vice president of Dell's U.S. consumer business, said during a press briefing here. "Defining the high-end is no longer the gearheads who focus on feeds and speeds. These are folks who get the possibilities of what the PC can do."

George said the initial machines would have a similar look and feel to Dell's current XPS designs such as its 9100 series PCs, and then evolve as next-generation hardware features are introduced. Dell said the premium line will include new form factors as well as the traditional multimedia consoles, towers, mini-towers, desktops and laptops.

The company said it would also launch a massive advertising campaign highlighting the premium brand to coincide with its other latest consumer focus: LCD and plasma TVs, all-in-one printers and its digital-music players.

"What you will see is a heightened campaign on this brand-focused identity and its compliment of products of TVs and printer," said Tim Peters, vice president of printing and imaging with Dell.

Dell said the lion's share of its PC business continues to be its entertainment-based models, typically for customers willing to spend between $600 and $1,200 to play games, music and store digital photos. Dell also heavily supports and develops its budget PC business, whose offerings range in price from $400 to $700. George noted that the company's budget customers also include its big-ticket consumers who are buying a second or third PC for a student in the house.

Despite robust sales in its high-end Dimension and Inspiron products, George said Dell is recognizing that an increasing number of customers are asking for more advanced systems with faster processors and memory, higher-capacity storage and additional software bundles.

"I don't think those customers have a specific place to go," he said. "There is not a clear identity to go in that high-end direction. We are competing for those customers along with companies like HP, Sony, Apple, Alienware and those customers that basically build their own systems."

The premium systems will also come with a premium service package, which Dell calls its "white glove" treatment. The service packages will include expanded online and in-home support. Dell is currently conducting extensive test programs on its online support.

The service builds on the company's current Dell Support 3.0 client and allows a customer to authorize a Dell service representative to take control of a PC. George said customers could choose different levels of authorization.

"We have one that is similar to those found on those football replay shows where they circle the action on the screen," George said. "Our service centers in the U.S. and India can show you where to go and fix the problem yourself or you can have them do the work for you."

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