Can Dell Compete on Colorful Computers?

Last Updated Aug 20, 2007 6:22 PM EDT

Dell's Newly Colored NotebooksDell has decided that Midnight Blue will save it from losing more ground in the PC market. Midnight Blue, Spring Green, and Jet Black. Those three of the eight new colors that will wrap Dell's first significant product launch in its fight to reclaim its former PC glory. The Inspiron 1520/1521 notebook series launched today, and they come with the latest technology and a much-needed injection of coolness: those eight color options. As an indication of Dell's movement toward sleeker styling and a hipper products, the actual product launch will occur in the Macy's department store in Manhattan's Herald Square.

Dell's consumer sales, which come almost exclusively from U.S. customers, aren't the company's largest business -- they account for about 15 percent of the roughly $57 billion in annual revenue. But 15 percent of $57 billion is still a huge number, and the colorful Inspiron notebooks are a sound strategic move to brighten the company's position in consumers' minds. Louise Lee reports from BusinessWeek on the larger restructuring that's driving Dell's new focus on their non-business customers:

The product launch follows a sweeping corporate overhaul in which Dell carved its consumer business into a separate unit and hired as its chief Ron Garriques, the Motorola executive who presided over the RAZR cell phone's huge success [...]
The new division has teams devoted entirely to developing consumer models, a recognition that the nonbusiness market requires more frequent product introductions, says Alex Gruzen, a senior vice-president in the consumer business. The company, says Gruzen, has realized how fast the consumer market moves and aims to launch new models at least twice as frequently as in the past. "We'll be back in the fall with more products. We want to be fresh for each season," Gruzen says. [...]

"Style, design, finish, color--it's a big step for us," Gruzen says, stressing that competing on price can become less of a focus with a more compelling product line. "All this stuff matters to customers. They want color, a sleek look."
In other words, Dell is turning up the innovation machine and looking at personal computers more like Apple does -- as high-tech fashion devices. The questions is whether the revamped consumer division will play a big enough role in reinvigorating the whole organization.

(Image of Dell's New Colorful Inspiron Notebooks by Dell)