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This week in Dell news

A trip by CNET editors and reporters to Dell's headquarters in Texas yields a bonanza of information about the PC maker's plans and operations.

A recent trip by CNET editors and reporters to Dell's headquarters in Texas yielded a bonanza of information about the PC maker's plans and operations.

One of the chief questions in the PC market for the next couple of years will be whether Dell will take the AMD plunge and incorporate Opteron or Athlon chips from Advanced Micro Devices into its systems. Intel's release of chips that can provide a similar 32-bit/64-bit functionality--one of the key factors of Opteron's popularity--has likely tabled the issue for now, according to several analysts.

But there are other factors at work, too. AMD is gaining customers in the corporate world--20 of the Fortune 100 have installed Opteron servers. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company has also shown that its technology can equal and even best Intel's.

The chipmaker is even drawing praise from Dell executives. "AMD has been getting much better at turning out their technology, and their technology has improved," said Kevin Rollins, Dell's CEO.

Two thousand, three hundred fifty. That's the number of desktops Dell was trying to produce per hour in the Mort Topfer Manufacturing Center in Round Rock, Texas, earlier this month. Put another way, that's roughly one PC every 1.5 seconds, 40 a minute, or 23,500 per shift.

The company was initially vague about output figures, but they were written on a whiteboard at the entry to the factory floor. "I was hoping you wouldn't see that," laughed Steve Lawton, one of the engineers who helped design the facility and part-time tour guide.

For manufacturing and logistics fanatics, a tour of the Topfer facility is sort of like visiting Stonehenge or the Flatiron Building. Here is where direct fulfillment, just-in-time production, took flight. It's like safety goggle heaven.

The company plans to continue expanding its stable of consumer electronics products and services throughout the rest of the year, looking to the gear to help it generate new customers and ultimately to sell more PCs. On Thursday it unfolded a menu of expanded in-home service and support offerings for consumers' home PCs, networks and televisions, building on its recently expanded line of electronics devices.

Also this week, Dell became the last of the four major server sellers to , announcing on Wednesday a partnership that puts low prices front and center.

The computer maker elevated Novell, the second-ranked Linux seller, to the status of market leader Red Hat. Customers will be able to buy SuSE Linux Enterprise Server on Dell's dual-processor servers the same way they buy Red Hat Linux, Microsoft Windows or Novell NetWare.