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Dell: PCs still rule the roost

In a gentle slapback to remarks from Sony's president, Michael Dell tells CES crowds that the PC will become the center of the digital home entertainment universe--not the TV.

LAS VEGAS--The PC still rules, insists Dell Computer founder Michael Dell.

Dell asserted the primacy of the PC as a digital media hub during his talk Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show here. He was politely refuting remarks made earlier in the day by Sony President Kunitake Ando, who insisted that smarter, more versatile television sets were about to rule the home.

"Whether the TV or the PC is the center of the universe is an interesting debate, but I don't think it's that relevant," Dell said. "I would stick by my belief that the PC is becoming the center of the entertainment experience."

CEO Dell used his talk, the first "Industry Insider" speech at CES, to tout the company's profitable direct-sales, build-to-order business model. He also hinted at continued expansion for the PC maker, which recently began selling its own brand of handheld computers and soon will enter the printer market.

"We're seeing a networked lifestyle where more and more devices are able to talk," he said. "We find that in a lot of these markets, people are paying too much for these products, and the efficiency of Dell's business model can benefit them."

Dell said the company's recent holiday experiments with retail kiosks, where potential customers can try out PCs and peripherals and place orders, were successful enough for it to continue them year-round.

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At the Consumer Electronics Show,
the theme is tech anywhere, anytime.

"Some customers clearly want to touch and try out new products before they buy them, and this gives us a very flexible way to do that--we can put them up and take them down as necessary," he said. "It means the customers get the benefits of a retail environment with all the benefits of the direct model."

After his talk, Dell faced several pointed questions from the audience regarding the company's record on recycling obsolete PCs. Moderators quickly grabbed the microphone away from Ted Smith, director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, when he began detailing Dell's poor standing in the group's recently released Clean Computer Campaign report card.

Dell calmly responded that the company was expanding its already solid environmental efforts. "We're being fairly proactive in helping consumers recycle those items, donate them or auction them," he said.