RealTime IT News

Dell Launches Online Services Deuce

LAS VEGAS -- Michael Dell announced a pair of new services reflecting increased broadband penetration and the importance of the consumer market to Dell's  business.

He also noted that the company has stumbled in terms of service and support and that these new offerings were the first step in improving that performance.

"We haven't done as well as we would have liked in the past, but we're making great progress," he said.

Dell said the Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker will make a new on-demand storage service, Dell DataSafe, to be available later this year.It will provide users with an online wizard to let them select files they want backed up from their computer hard drives.

In addition to providing back-up storage, said Dell, the application can be used to transfer files when consumers upgrade to a new computer. They can either do the transfer themselves or allow the manufacturer to pre-install their new computer.

A Dell spokeswoman told internetnews.com that the feature will be available to non-Dell customers who want to back up their hard drives, although the factory-install feature will only be available for new Dell computers. Dell is not providing pricing details at this time.

Dell will be competing with other online storage options now available to consumers.

Dell also introduced Studio Dell, an RSS-enabled digital media network featuring instructional videos aimed at home users, as well as IT professionals.

The service was launched today with a total of 30 videos in three separate channels -- one for home, one for small business and one for IT professionals, with videos on how to set up a Wi-Fi network, how to drive traffic to your Web site and how to scale IT operations.

But Dell said it was about more than one-way communications, and that users will be able to upload their own videos in YouTube-fashion "soon."

"It's also made it easier for you to talk to us," he said.

But Dell put some of the blame for the company's recent stumbles on the telecommunications industry, which he said has not been doing enough to improve broadband connectivity, making new product enhancements less appealing to consumers.

"Emerging applications require more bandwidth... We need to adopt an advanced ubiquitous broadband infrastructure in this country," he said.

Dell cited Verizon's  FiOS pilot projects, initiated in 16 different U.S. cities, as a step in the right direction.

Greater broadband penetration is clearly key to Dell's ongoing success, particularly for new PCs and monitors he also introduced today, many of which are targeted at the gaming community.

Dell announced two additions to the company's line of widescreen LCD monitors. The UltraSharp 2707WFP ($1,399) is a 27-inch model that slots in below the 30-inch flagship 3007WFP introduced last fall. Like that model, it boasts a color gamut covering more of the NTSC color space than most flat panels -- 92 percent versus 72 percent -- for richer colors in image or video editing.

Other features include a 1,000:1 contrast ratio, 6-millisecond response time for gamers, and height-adjustable base.

For more modest budgets, the Dell E228WFP is a 22-inch widescreen monitor lacking luxuries such as height adjustment but delivering Windows Vista certification and a DVI digital interface with the high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP) technology required to display HD content under the new operating system. Its price is $329.

One market segment that stands out amid today's falling prices and shrinking profit margins is the over-the-top world of hardcore gamers and performance-crazed CPU overclockers.

Last year saw both Dell's acquisition of exotic-PC maker Alienware and HP's of VoodooPC.

But unlike HP, Dell has also striven to keep its own brand on gamers' radar, with desktops and laptops that not only eliminate the old void-your-warranty peril of overclocking but encourage the practice.

Today, the chairman of the board unveiled Dell's most outrageous system yet. The XPS 710 H2C Edition adds liquid cooling to the already formidable 710's quad-core Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 processor, dual Nvidia GeForce graphics cards, and one-kilowatt power supply.

The desktop tower's piano-black chassis contains a Dell-designed dual-stage, sealed ceramic cooling system that the company says not only provides 50 percent more chill than competitive setups but should run for seven years with no need for the refills and other maintenance of most liquid-cooled PCs. The H2C Edition will sell for roughly $5,500, which includes the 27-inch widescreen monitor described above.

Dell also announced a new program, which he said was an industry first, to allow consumers the opportunity to offset the carbon emissions generated by computer usage by contributing to a tree-planting fund.

Consumers can earmark $2 to be donated for the purchase of a notebook and $6 for a desktop.

Proceeds will go to the Conservation Fund and Carbonfund.org.

"We think it's the right thing to do and the right thing for business. Our customers have told us these issues are important to them," said Dell. "There are early indications of significant interest in this."

Eric Grevstad, executive editor of JupiterWeb's Hardware Central, contributed to this report.