Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Was Alienware Just the Beginning? Dell Considers a Gaming Handheld

At Dell's European Innovation event in Marbella, Spain, PC Plus (a UK magazine) learned that a gaming handheld may very well be on on the distant horizon for the mail-order PC giant. Dell's gaming boss, Abizar Vakharia, when asked about the possibility of a gaming handheld from Dell, answered

"You know, that's definitely one that's on the radar screen, but we have no plans to talk about anything today."

It's anyone's guess as to whether that this blip on the "radar" will come to fruition any time soon, but there's no denying Dell's increasing interest in the gaming market. Last March, Dell bought out the custom gaming PC company Alienware, making it a wholly-owned subisidiary. Rather than absorb Alienware into it's infrastructure entirely, the smaller company has retained its own branding and continues to produce the same type and quality of gaming machines for the PC enthusiast that it has in the past. Despite the acquisition of Alienware, Dell maintains its own separate line of gaming PCs in the form of the XPS line in its catalog.

Gamers don't make up a majority of computer sales, but they are irrefutably a driving force in the advancement of computer technologies, especially processing power and the almighty video card market. When it comes to the larger gaming demographic, there are several smaller groups (which admittedly sometimes overlap) that a manufacturer must take into consideration.

Very casual gamers, who play a game or two on their family computer, often buy mainstream computers such as Dell's Dimension desktops. Dell has had that market all but cornered for awhile now. The next step up is a group of people who really enjoy their games, but still want a computer that is convenient to order and maintain; possibly still fulfilling the family computer role. Again, Dell has them covered; these consumers are likely to purchase an XPS. The third group is one that games very heavily, and wants a computer dedicated to such from a name they can trust. Last March, Dell's purchase of Alienware secured a large portion of this market.

Lastly, you have two groups that would never, ever buy a Dell PC for its gaming uses: power PC users and console gamers. Power PC users seldom purchase desktops at all, instead building them themselves, and will always build their own gaming PCs. This will only hurt Dell more as laptops become more and more simple to build at home. Console gamers do most or all of their gaming on devices such as the Xbox, Gamecube/Wii, or Playstation consoles. The only way for Dell to make money off of these final two groups in relation to gaming is to sell them something other than a desktop. A gaming handheld from Dell may help them to put something with their logo into the hands of all segments of this small but influential demographic.

For those of you that are wondering, the UMPC mockup image on the PC Plus site is a Samsung Q1.

- Glock