Dell Plans Low-Cost Laptops for Asian Market

Dell will introduce more low-cost notebooks in Asia this year as the company steps up the introduction of new models across its entire notebook line, a senior company executive said Friday.

"We've been pretty much a leader in the mid- and high-end price bands. We haven't played as strongly in the lower price bands," said Steve Felice, president of Dell Asia-Pacific, during a conference call with reporters.

That's starting to change. Over the last year, Dell has rolled out low-cost notebooks for both consumers and small businesses in Asian markets such as China.

For example, the company's Vostro 1000 notebook -- which runs Red Flag Linux and uses a 2GHz Sempron processor from Advanced Micro Devices -- currently sells for 3,999 yuan (US$561) in China. On the consumer side, Dell offers the 5,799 yuan Inspiron 1420, which comes with a 1.66GHz Core 2 Duo processor from Intel and Windows Vista Home Basic.

Asked whether Dell plans to introduce a low-cost notebook that would compete with Asustek Computers' Eee PC, Felice would only say the company is working on a range of notebooks intended to be sold at various price points.

"Let me just say that we've got some great things in our R&D labs and we're coming out with some really exciting products," Felice said. "I'm just going to tell people to just watch and look. I think they'll be impressed with what Dell has to come out with over this coming year."

Last year, Asustek raised industry eyebrows with the success of its low-cost Eee PC. The lightweight notebook runs Linux and was largely based on a package of components put together for Intel's Classmate PC, a low-cost computer designed for students in emerging markets. The low price of the Eee PC was a hit with consumers around the world, who snapped up the little notebooks.

The appeal of low-cost notebooks to users in emerging markets and developed countries caught the attention of top-tier PC companies. Besides Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Acer are also readying low-cost notebooks for introduction this year, according to sources familiar with the situation. But demand for these computers is not expected to eclipse sales of mainstream notebooks.

"In the scheme of the total share of all notebooks, I think it's still going to remain in its relative position, let's say. I don't think it's going to dominate," Felice said, adding he expects demand for notebooks to be strong across all of the price bands where notebooks are sold.

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