That doesnt mean that HP isnt doing some great designs, but they are largely still coming out of their own design group. It is interesting to note, however, that Im typing this on a new HP Tablet that looks like its lid was carved out of a block of Titanium and has the coolest motorized WAN antenna and pop out keyboard light Ive ever seen (yes, Im such a geek). It reminds me a lot of what an updated Apple Titanium notebook might have looked like had it been made smaller and into a tablet. But, strangely enough, it is Dell and not HP that is solidly focused on Apple designs.
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For Dell, Apple designs play a huge role, and Dells design team has been tripled over the last few months. Its been given the guidance that they are expected to build products that not only look better than Apples but make the Apple products look ugly. This last part is really difficult in that, were this a goal for a beauty contest, to reach this goal youd not only have to win but get the other contestants kicked out for being terminally ugly.
The first product out of the Dell design labs based on this new policy was the Dell XPS 1330. If you place it on a table next to a MacBook and blink youll see the Apple product transform into something that is comparatively dull and boring. Damned if they didnt hit their design goal.
And the upcoming Dell One, which Ill cover at a later date, does the same thing to the iMac in person (granted both are aging designs but you get the point). In some ways this has been an easier target than Id anticipated as Apple has clearly shifted design resources over to the iPod Touch and iPhone, where they have done some solid work recently. With those out youd expect they will move the bar themselves a bit. But Dell, which once had some of the homeliest PCs in the segment, now has some of the most attractive and part of this is due to this Apple focused goal.
Ive had a chance to see some of the things that are coming from Dell and they are going to continue to push the design bar. Going forward, it should be nearly impossible to connect the word boring to a Dell design. This goes beyond consumer lines and we should begin seeing some exciting new corporate hardware from them shortly.
Dells big problem last year was retail and the lack of a presence in stores. More recently Dell has been popping up in some of the largest retailers in the U.S. and Asia but you havent seen anything yet. Dells retail strategy is now largely being led by the guy who is the ex-CEO of CompUSA and worked with Apple to build out the Store in a Store concept. He represents one of, if not the, strongest executives with Apple retail knowledge in the segment. While it is too early to go into details you can imagine where he is planning to take Dell. And if you remember that Dell is the number 2 online retailer behind Amazon, a little Apple retail DNA could be a huge benefit.
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