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Dude! You're getting a Dell, and you're actually happy about it

Dell making nice computers? The gods must be crazy.

Who would have thought? Dell is actually making quality computers these days, and not simply the cheapest boxes it can ship. Or so says Walt Mossberg in a recent review of Dell's XPS One desktop. Mossberg even goes so far as to suggest (gasp!) that Dell's all-in-one desktop actually gives Apple's iMac a run for its money.

Of course, as noted below, the one thing that Dell can't match is, in fact, the iMac experience. Dell may be making better hardware, but it's still stymied by its dependence on Microsoft software. This may well make the XPS a losing proposition.

Something interesting is going on at Dell. The Texas personal-computer behemoth, long associated with boxy, boring machines, has started emphasizing industrial design. And the company, which in recent years seemed to care only about corporate customers, techies and hard-core gamers, appears once again interested in average, mainstream consumers who value simplicity.

The most tangible example of this new approach is Dell's XPS One desktop -- an elegant, handsome, cleverly designed one-piece computer. If it didn't have the Dell logo on it, the XPS One might be mistaken for a product of the PC industry's design leaders, Apple or Sony.

I haven't actually seen the XPS, so I can't comment directly, but this is good news for Dell (and even more so for all those corporate saps who get stuck with Dell because that's what fits the IT department's budget and aesthetic preferences).

That said, the XPS does have one major, deal-breaking downside: It runs Windows. This and the other software that Apple ships with its Macs means that Dell still has a few billion miles to run to catch up. But for those relegated to a Windows doesn't sound half-bad.