Alienware courts nongamers, sort of

If you ever thought you were

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read
Alienware Aurora m9700

When a computer manufacturer has a name like "Alienware," you can easily get the idea that they're marketing to the "World of Warcraft"-playing, Asimov-quoting, ThinkGeek-shopping demographic--and rightfully so. But for those of you who don't do the role-playing game or sci-fi thing, Alienware wants to let you know that it still thinks you'd be interested in its laptops. But I'm not sold.

Let me explain. Last week, as I've mentioned here before, I went to New York's DigitalLife festivities. While I was there, I met with Alienware product marketing managers Mark Diana and Bryan de Zayas to ask them this question: I'm not a gamer. Why would I want an Alienware computer?

They directed me toward the Aurora m9700, a laptop that's still primarily geared toward gamers but which they hope will appeal to the ever-growing population of media aficionados. With a 17-inch widescreen display and a dual graphics-card system, it can make your digital movie collection look great. If you're into video blogging, there's a 1.3 megapixel video camera, and the 320 GB dual hard drive will be able to store plenty of your "vlog" archives. Or iTunes Store purchases. Or photography. And keep in mind that this is a laptop. Even with the $1,699 starting price tag, it seems decently appealing.

At Alienware's booth at DigitalLife, the company was giving away T-shirts: black ones, with "Player" scrawled on them in a chrome font that looked like it belonged on a 50 Cent or Three Six Mafia album cover. The trademark alien face with glowing eyes was barely visible. It seemed, at least to me, like another hint that Alienware is trying to reach beyond its basement-gamer roots. But the problem is, despite Alienware's execs' willingness to hype the Aurora m9700 as a media freak's dream, it's still touted on their Web site as "The Gamer's Notebook." Until they pay more than lip service to the digital-media crowd, I'd have to say that Alienware is going to stay restricted to the gamer circle.

After all, the Aurora m9700 comes in three colors that are referred to as "Saucer Silver," "Conspiracy Blue," and "Cyborg Green." That's saying a lot.

Photo credit: Alienware