Dell projection is pro projectors

Visions of market dominance flicker through the PC company's head as it enters the portable projector market with a low-priced model.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
2 min read
Dell Computer is shining a new light on projectors.

The PC maker announced Monday that it has begun selling a new portable projector that can be paired with its notebook PCs.

The 3.5-pound 3100MP DLP (digital light processing) projector is designed to let salespeople make presentations and then hit the road again. Or it could also be used in company conference rooms, then stored in an out-of-the-way location. A small number of companies or even consumers may use the machine to play movies or view multimedia presentations.

The new projector is similar to many other midrange projectors in its class, with the exception of its price. Dell undercuts the competition by a significant margin.

The 3100MP offers resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels (otherwise known as XGA resolution) with a brightness of up to 1050 lumens as measured according to the American National Standards Institute's methods.

The Dell machine will sell for $2,499, less than many competing products. Toshiba's 3.1-pound TDP-P4 projector lists for $3,499, for example, while Compaq's 3-pound iPaq MP2810 costs $3,999. Both those machines offer brightness of 1100 lumens along with XGA resolution.

Dell is able to sell its projector for less because it deals directly with consumers, company executives said.

"It's not the product being so cheap, it's really the cost model" Dell has, said Kathleen Schneider, senior manager for displays in Dell's Software and Peripheral organization.

And because of its large number of customers, Dell is also a popular dance partner for outside manufacturers who see the opportunity to sell a large number of products.

All this lets Dell quickly boost market share in the new product categories it enters. It's all part of a plan to expand the company's reach into new areas, outside its traditional PC business.

Usually, Dell looks to the non-branded products it sells for an indication of what areas are hot.

Dell had success selling switches from Intel, 3Com and others, for example, before launching its own PowerConnect line of switches in September.

Since then its attach rate--the number of customers who buy a server and add a switch to the same purchase--has climbed from about 20 percent to about 40 percent, Dell has said.

"Clearly, Dell is trying to expand into logical adjacent businesses," said Brooks Gray, analyst with Technology Business Research. "As with the switch market, Dell could see as sizable (projector) attach rate with its notebooks."

Of course, it remains to be seen if Dell can conquer the projector market, Gray said, but with willing partners--such as Coretronic, which will manufacture the projector to order for customers using Dell's specifications--it may be hard for the company to come out anywhere but on top.

"Dell has the capability to test out adjacent market with little risk," Gray said.

Implying its expectations for success with the new product, Dell says the 3100MP will be the first in a new lineup of projectors the company will offer for different market segments.