Dell courts consumers with new printers, plasma TVs

Dell will introduce new consumer products in the months leading up to the holiday shopping seasons including new printers, plasma televisions, and music players, company executives said Monday.

The company also plans to redesign the support portions of its Web site and launch a media campaign aimed at educating consumers about viruses and spyware, said Mike George, vice president and general manager of Dell's U.S. consumer business.

The majority of Dell's customers have always been corporations, and that is still the case. But the company has worked to increase its market share among consumer PC customers. That experience has helped Dell break into newer consumer product categories such as printers and televisions, George said.

U.S. consumers tend to buy technology products in the third quarter, when schools resume classes, and during the fourth-quarter holiday period. Dell's upcoming products will be ready for those shopping periods, George said.

Dell jumped into the printer market last year in hopes of taking market share away from rival Hewlett-Packard. It has focused mostly on all-in-one devices that perform multiple functions -- such as printing, scanning, and copying -- for the home, but will roll out a number of new products in both new and existing categories, George said.

Plasma televisions are also scheduled for release in the near future, said Michael Farello, vice president of marketing for Dell's U.S. consumer business. The company currently offers LCD (liquid crystal display) televisions, but will introduce a plasma television larger than 30 inches later this year, he said.

A plasma television is more expensive than an LCD television, and offers a wider viewing angle as well as improved picture quality. Dell held off on plasma televisions last year because it had concerns about quality, George said.

Plasma televisions had a problem with "the burn-in factor," or the tendency for an image to remain on the screen if shown for an extended period of time, George said. Dell is now confident that the technology provided by its supplier is of sufficient quality, he said, declining to name that supplier.

Along with the new products, Dell will also emphasize security for PC customers in upcoming months, George said. Around 15 to 20 percent of all support calls placed to Dell are related to a virus or spyware program that is causing problems on a PC, and educating customers how to protect themselves will reduce support calls and improve the customer's overall experience, he said.

The campaign will consist of commercials, targeted marketing supplements, and discounts on security products, George said.

Customers with other support questions will have access to more online support representatives and troubleshooting tips customized for their respective PCs at the new version of Dell's support Web page (http://support.dell.com), George said.

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