Laptops

Can Dell's Adamo Make Windows PCs Sexy?

Looking at Dell's new Adamo laptop is a bit like watching a guy 50-year-old guy enter his mid-life crisis. And that guy just might be the Adamo's target customer--someone with $2,000 to plunk down on an underpowered laptop, but would rather run Vista Home Premium than OS X.

Yep, that's the same aging baby boomer who buys a Harley and never rides it above the posted speed limit, but thinks he's become a babe magnet on two wheels. All while his wife smiles sympathetically and shakes her head. If you ask me, people who want Apple laptops already own them--Dell customers want Dell laptops. The Adamo is not a Dell laptop; it's a counterfeit Mac.

If you need any further convincing that Dell has badly lost its way with this new system, look at the minute-long video on the Adamo Web site. I have watched it three times and am still not sure that I am being shown so much footage what is ultimately just another laptop computer. This is a fine example of what a company that is not cool comes up with in an attempt to be cool. The video should be filed under "badly overreaches" and put away permanently.

Dell laptops are supposed to be sturdy, functional, and feature-rich in a PC sort of way. In fact, the most reliable laptop I have ever used is a Dell Dimension X300 that I have had for five or six years.

The X300 runs WinXP and has a whopping 640MB RAM. It's not modern anymore, but this machine has taken everything I have thrown at it--and has the broken plastic to show for it. The machine still works just fine. Dell should be proud of it.

PC laptops and Mac laptops appeal to different people for different reasons. With the Mac, you are getting cool hardware with some even cooler Apple apps. You are also buying a desktop extension for your iPod and/or iPhone. Mac OS X and the Apple-designed hardware are designed to make one another look good.

Macs are also less flexible than a PC, especially in a large corporate environment, and if you need maximum performance from your Microsoft apps, a Mac won't give it to you.

People for whom the Apple gestalt--the Steve Jobs sensibility, really--is important buy Macs, if they can afford them. People who buy Windows machines want something different: value, functionality, flexibility, performance, and choice. I think I placed those in the right order.

Put another way: A Dell laptop is expected to be a workhorse. A MacBook is a show horse by comparison. Nothing wrong with either of them, but when Dell starts trying to build show horse computers the company seems to have lost its way.

Fashion and style is not part of the Dell "brand promise" to its customers. They expect a computer that weights a certain amount, gets the best battery life possible, seems small for what it does, is fast, and whose pricing makes sense. They also want options, especially power options, which Apple most certainly doesn't offer.

Some will say there is no reason why Dell shouldn't make a pass at becoming the Manolo Blahnik of the Windows world. I think it's better to become a better Dell and leave computers-as-fashion-statements to those who already do them best.

In short: Dude, if I want a Dell, I want a real Dell.

David Coursey is not a slave to fashion and uses both Macs and PCs each and every day. Write to him using the contact for at www.coursey.com/contact.

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