Dude, You're Getting A Dell... At Best Buy - InformationWeek

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Dude, You're Getting A Dell... At Best Buy

The initial rollout includes Dell's notebooks: XPS M1330 in white, the Inspiron 1521 in blue and black, and the Inspiron 1420 in black.

Dell on Thursday said it plans to start selling notebooks and desktop computers in more than 900 Best Buy stores in the United States, a move that in combination with previous deals gives the company the ability to reach all types of consumers through brick-and-mortar locations.

Dell said its XPS and Inspiron brands of computers would be available in the next few weeks at Best Buy stores, which means the products won't be available for the holiday shopping season, the more lucrative time of the year for retailers. Nevertheless, striking a deal with Best Buy is good in the longer term, because the retailer's customer base will complement those of Staples and Wal-Mart Stores, which already carry Dell products.

"It gives them a very solid third leg in U.S. retail," Stephen Baker, analyst for The NPD Group, told InformationWeek.

In general, Wal-Mart puts Dell in front of the mass market, where lower-priced PCs are the biggest sellers. Office supply company Staples, on the other hand, is a good place to reach small businesses and people with home offices, which are more apt to seek computers configured for business.

However, Best Buy offers Dell the chance to reach people who are willing to pay for more powerful multimedia computers geared toward manipulating video or audio files. "Best Buy attracts consumers that are willing to look at a price and value proposition a little more," Baker said.

Dell's attempt to reach the higher end of the market is reflected in its decision to sell the XPS One through Best Buy. The entertainment computer, which starts at $1,499, is the first PC designed by the company's new consumer unit. The new product, which started shipping last month, is designed to take on the most elegant work by Apple, Hewlett-Packard and other hardware rivals.

Dell moved aggressively into retail stores this year after watching HP grab market share for more than a year to eventually surpass Dell as the world's largest computer maker. Among consumers, HP's strength has been its eye-catching machines with lots of horsepower for entertainment applications.

As computers take on a bigger role beyond business in people's lives, the market has grown, and manufacturers have had to turn to design to catch consumers' attention, and then make sure the machines have the capabilities people want. "The value proposition of the PC for consumers is more about what I do with the PC, than the speeds, feeds and specs," Baker said. "Those things are not the reason that people buy anymore. The personalization of your computer isn't around the spec, it's around how you use it and how it looks."

The importance of how a computer looks has made retail stores more important than ever for Dell and other manufacturers. People want to see the computer, touch it, and operate it next to other machines. Dell acknowledged that trend in announcing the Best Buy deal. "Seeing the latest fashion colors of our Inspiron and XPS notebooks or previewing the ultimate gaming experience on a high-performance system can be an important part of how people shop," Michael Tatelman, VP of sales and marketing for Dell's global consumer business, said in a statement.

Best Buy is set to initially offer the following Dell notebooks: the XPS M1330 in white, the Inspiron 1521 in blue and black, and the Inspiron 1420 in black. Among desktop brands, the retailer will sell the XPS One, and the Inspiron 530, 531, and 531s. Dell plans to offer additional models and colors in the coming months.

The latest deal takes Dell products into nearly 10,000 stores globally. Besides Best Buy, Staples, Wal-Mart, the company also has deals with Courts in Singapore, Gome in China, Bic Camera in Japan, and Carphone Warehouse in the United Kingdom. Besides the U.S., Wal-Mart also sells Dell computers in Canada, Brazil and Mexico.

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