With the PC market finally showing some stability towards the end of 2016, Dell was among the top five companies that posted a productive last quarter. In fact, according to IDC’s report, the company managed a positive year-on-year growth in every region with strong notebook and desktop volumes being shipped.
At CES 2017, Dell showcased its roadmap for this year, with the focus primarily on gaming and VR. Ray Wah, Vice President, Consumer Product Group told Gadgets 360, “Gaming is one big growth area for us because it’s an area that’s always evolving. Games are only going to get better so there’s no end to it. Think of 4K gaming. It’s still at its infancy. We like that because you need to refresh your PCs, get new hardware to get the better experience."
“Other growth area is the 2-in-1s," he added. "For customers who already have their first notebook or PC are looking for the next thing like touchscreen, thinner body."
But the gaming sector is still relatively niche in India and for Dell, its Inspiron series continues to be the major driving force for laptop sales. “We put more engineers on Alienware and XPS more than Inspiron. Because by price band, Inspiron serves a bigger TAM [Total Available Market]," said Wah. "But what we’ve done is to make sure this Inspiron 7000 series has this innovation that’s borrowed from XPS or Alienware. This series took a lot of learnings from Alienware and Inspirons also have Infinity Edge display. Our strategy is straightforward. By putting more engineers on the premium sub-brands, at some point, the good work we’ve done here will trickle down.”
Dell showed off some pretty innovative products at CES like the Dell Canvas, the world’s first 8K monitor and they finally made their most popular Ultrabook into a hybrid with the XPS 13 2-in-1. While these products are yet to make their way to our shores, one feature that was conspicuously missing from the lineup was HDR displays for monitors and laptops. With smartphones and TVs now supporting HDR, and content being readily available (albeit in a limited way) thanks to Netflix, we’re going to be hearing a lot about this technology in 2017.
Alen Joe Jose, Director Product Marketing, Consumer and Small Business, Dell India told Gadgets 360 in an emailed statement: “All Precision, XPS and Alienware laptops, and Inspiron gaming laptops with UHD displays, will get Dell High Dynamic Range (HDR) display later in the year, for incredibly life-like images when watching HDR10 content. Dell’s HDR feature is designed keeping the PC user in mind.”
Focus on gaming and VR
Back in October, Microsoft announced that affordable VR headsets are coming in time for its Windows 10 Creators Update. Lenovo showed off its version of the headset at CES but Dell’s version was missing at the time. When asked about when we can expect it, Jose answered: “By partnering with Microsoft, we now have an exciting opportunity to build on our work with HTC and Oculus to develop even more accessible VR solutions for all kinds of users interested in VR. Aligned with the Windows 10 Creators Update we’re looking to develop Dell-branded headsets that can be powered by a new hardware specification that can put VR experiences within reach for virtually anyone. At this point we have an early prototype that we showed at CES [although it wasn't given for demos]. but aren’t communicating price or availability at this time.”
While gaming makes a great entry point to VR for many users, what does the future look like for the consumer segment and how will it actually impact the way we go about computing? “Dell is a world leader in virtual reality (VR) with the most PC options in the market including XPS, Alienware and Precision workstations supporting Oculus and HTC headsets," said Jose. "As more headsets fly off the shelves, there is a huge opportunity—and demand—for VR content creators.”
“Gaming/ entertainment may have much of the VR spotlight right now, but we see markets such as healthcare, education and retail adopting VR technology rapidly," he added. "Similarly, we see professional workloads in the Industrial space (design, engineering, manufacturing, etc.) comprising one of the largest segments of VR usage and implementation.” Wah believes VR is still waiting for richer content for it to really take off and the availability of bandwidth to able to stream live data. He also added that he doesn’t think it’s a fad that will fizzle out like 3D for consumer TVs.
Besides traditional desktops and laptops, Dell also offers interesting gaming solutions in the form of Steam machines and slim-line gaming desktops. However, it’s been a while since we’ve heard much from these segments. “A lot of the gamers are still gravitating back to the Windows machines,” said Wah. “We still have that in the Alienware Alpha but we’ve found that the Windows version ships a whole lot better.” Jose added, “The current Windows line up is already capable of running the Steam platform as an application. We continue to evaluate the market requirement based on customer feedback before and this will determine any decision on updating the portfolio further.”
As for the slim-line desktops, Jose said, “Our focus is to understand varied customer requirements and preferences. We are constantly evaluating the needs of our customers with regards to the gaming portfolio, including the slimline desktops. If we see the consumer base expressing an interest in a particular product range, we would plan on delivering accordingly.”
Dell’s new affordable Inspiron 7000 Gaming laptops start at just $799 (or roughly Rs. 54,600), however, by the time it gets to India, we looking at hefty premium of at least Rs.10,000 to 15,000 (if not more) added to the US pricing. “Taxes,” laughed Wah. He also says Dell is trying to set up manufacturing in India to make sure that important products are not heavily taxed.
The company is yet to launch its new gaming portfolio in the country and we hope by the time it gets here, Dell manages to find a way to give us better hardware at a more aggressive price.
Disclosure: Dell sponsored the correspondent's flights and hotel for the trip to Las Vegas for CES.