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Crave Talk: Dell buys Alienware, but can it buy 'cool'?

Dell has just acquired Alienware -- purveyors of high-end gaming PCs. But will the deal be as sweet for consumers as it will be for Alienware's share price?

Desktops

Today's news of Dell's Alienware acquisition is significant, if hardly surprising. When the rumours first hit, Alienware's representatives coyly responded with a somewhat self-congratulatory release along the lines of "it's not true, but we're very flattered, because Dell is awesome and so are we".

We're obviously paraphrasing here, but it was plain to see the deal had been done barring a few crossed Is and dotted Ts. Now the relevant vowels and consonants have been completed, we're left to ponder the reasons and implications of the deal. Can a staid corporate entity such as Dell simply jump on a Learjet from its Texas base to buy a slice of cool from Miami, Florida's trendiest PC builder?

The move makes great sense on paper and is reminiscent of other blue chip-luxury brand deals, such as Nike's acquisition of the iconic Converse brand, or Ford's buying up of Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover. The speed and efficiency with which Alienware manufactures its PCs is questionable at best, so it could use Dell's efficient manufacturing processes, not to mention its vast coffers to help create and promote its PCs and reach a larger audience.

But many of us are sceptical. There's a common perception that Alienware's customers are intelligent, tech-savvy and, perhaps, too cool to be associated with boring old Dell. There's also a perception that Dell's influence could sully the Alienware brand with its apparent misunderstanding of gamers' needs.

Why else would it, for example, continue the exclusive use of Intel CPUs in its fastest games PCs when AMD's current crop of gaming processors are faster? And why would it openly recommend users buy its 'ultimate gaming solution' PCs with monitors that hardcore gamers know are too small to take advantage of their high-end graphics cards?

Whether the deal proves successful for Alienware's passionate gaming users remains to be seen. Financial terms were not disclosed, but we suspect Dell has made at least one new customer happy. We hope that Alienware CEO Nelson Gonzales will be richly rewarded for exchanging Dell's PC cash for his company's gaming cachet. -Rory Reid

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