By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Dell will reposition its XPS brand as a premium performance line for consumers by eventually phasing out gamer-targeted XPS models and focusing all of its gaming efforts on its Alienware brand, which it acquired in 2006.
Erik Day, Dell's merchandise manager for XPS, told TWICE that the company eventually plans to rebrand the entire XPS line as its "mainstream luxury brand." To further illustrate the point, Day referred to the difference between a Toyota and that automobile maker's luxury Lexus line and indicated that Dell expects XPS to become its Lexus.
To further clarify the situation, Dell spokeswoman Anne Camden took pains to explain that contrary to other published reports, the XPS brand will not completely disappear and the company will not eliminate its current XPS gaming products before these products have a chance to run their course on the market.
"We have three XPS gaming systems that will remain in the gaming product portfolio for the foreseeable future," Camden said. "They will be refreshed as appropriate and kept at the front edge of gaming for a normal gaming product lifecycle." She indicated that a normal gaming lifecycle is about one year.
Camden also told TWICE that Dell will not release a specific timeline for all of its plans. "We need time to integrate the teams, and we need time to make the investments we need to going forward. We will be methodical and thoughtful moving forward, combining best practices. Product development takes months, and we need to underscore that the current products available, including the newly launched XPS 730, are best-in-class today, while we move forward on next-generation products," she said.
Camden explained that the company is integrating its previously separate gaming, engineering and product development teams from XPS' gaming segment with Alienware's staff "to drive the Alienware brand to a premium brand on a global basis." These new joint teams will operate out of Miami and Austin, Texas, she said.
Overall, Day said, he expects the new division between its gaming and premium general computing brands will result in "less confusion for the consumer."
In some ways, experimentation with the XPS brand has already begun. Day pointed out a pink XPS laptop that successfully launched a few weeks ago as the company's "first attempt at feminizing the brand," signifying that the plan is to add more mainstream appeal to a brand that traditionally was targeted to reach a typically adult-male gaming audience.
Commenting on the news, Steve Baker, industry analyst at The NPD Group, told TWICE last week, "Clearly Dell has learned from HP and its Blackbird launch," Baker added that he thinks it's important for PC makers to figure out how to "marry your brand and the gaming brand in a way that will uplift your brand and won't dilute the gaming brand."
Baker said he thinks that Dell's plan to focus its gaming under Alienware has potential to work out because "the Alienware customer can be more profitable because they're willing to pay more."
Baker added that he thinks there's definitely room for the type of high-end product that the XPS brand hopes to bring to market. "The PC market is maturing," he said, from a "one-size-fits all" approach in the mainstream to one that will meet the needs of a number of emerging niche customers.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.