Dell hopes to strike a chord with holiday shoppers

As expected, Dell announced several new products Thursday, including a music player and a music download service, designed to help the Round Rock, Texas, company ease its way into the digital home.

Dell also introduced a 17-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) television and new a Axim personal digital assistant during a conference call for analysts and the media. Dell Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Dell declined to provide specific configurations for any of the products, which will be rolled out to U.S. customers in time for the holiday shopping season, he said.

A source told IDG News Service last week that the Dell Digital Jukebox music player will come with 15G bytes of storage, and that the Axim X3 will come in several different configurations. Dell confirmed that the new Axim will be slimmer than the older design, and come with integrated 802.11b wireless connectivity as an option.

Details about the new Dell Music Store were also sketchy, but it is also expect to be available in time for the end-of-year shopping season. Dell declined to confirm what music labels will be participating in the store, but said that consumers would find a wide variety of songs available for download at competitive prices as compared to other download stores.

In Australia, customers will see a new online store front launched next month, said Nicole Gemmell, Dell's corporate communications manager. The new model Axim and a digital projector targeted specifically at the home entertainment market will be ready before Xmas.

With regard to TVs and music devices, Dell ANZ is talking with customers and reviewing the opportunity for the local market. "Saying this, there are no definitive plans to launch these products to the Australian market at this time," she said.

Although most of the products announced were peripherals, the company's vision of the digital home places the PC at the nerve center of home networks, and it will ship media software with all new Dimension desktops, Dell said. The Dell Media Experience software will allow consumers to manage digital pictures, music and videos, he said.

Dell's announcement is part of a growing trend in the PC industry toward the consumer electronics business. Dell's consumer business represents about 15 percent to 20 percent of the company's business, so it's unlikely that the company will turn its back on corporate customers any time soon, Dell said. But consumers have kept the technology world afloat over the past two years, and more and more companies are hoping to grab a piece of that market.

As part of Thursday's announcement, Dell Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Mike George previewed a redesign of Dell's Web site, due to be launched in mid-October, that will make it easier for consumers and corporate customers to find the products they want and provide more information about those products, George said.

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Tom Krazit

IDG News Service
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