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Dell Unveils High-End XPS Brand, Opens New Plant

The Dell XPS 170 notebook
The XPS 170 notebook from Dell

2005-10-14: Dell, the world's largest computer maker and mass customization icon, has brought out the XPS brand of high-performance computers, and also has opened a new manufacturing plant to serve the Eastern United States.

Dell will ramp its XPS portfolio with the XPS 600, XPS 400 and XPS 200 desktop computers and the XPS M170 notebook computer; additional models will be introduced over time. Available now in the United States, the new XPS models are aimed at tech enthusiasts, gamers and other buyers of top-end products. Desktop pricing begins at $1,099, while the notebook computer starts at $2,699.

All XPS systems are equipped with Microsoft(R) Windows(R) XP Media Center Edition 2005, a 15-month security subscription for virus and spyware protection and 17-inch displays (flat panel monitors for desktop computers, a 17-inch display for the notebook). Shipping and one year of XPS limited warranty support is also included.

Dell founder Michael Dell has said that the new products address the growing sophistication of consumers who are using computers for advanced multimedia and entertainment applications in environments ranging from dens and offices to living rooms, gaming rooms and home theatres.

To help customers with their XPS purchases, Dell has invested in and has overahuled its pre-sales, sales, online and services infrastructure. These new measures are presumably intended to counter criticism of Dell's customer relationship performance. Dell's customer satisfaction results have been disappointing in recent times, particularly relating to support issues.

For consumers buying products over the phone, XPS agents will own the relationship from their initial call to repeated inquiries or purchases. According to Dell, this sense of ownership will enable the agents to act as individual consultants to their customers and bring consistency and familiarity to the account.

Consumers choosing to purchase products over the Web can enter the showroom designed to deliver the best online experience. Interactive and detailed product tours have been added to the site to educate consumers about the benefits of XPS products for specific applications based on a varying set of needs. Also, XPS Chat with instant messaging will be available in early October to give consumers quick answers from XPS-trained product advisers.

XPS limited warranty support is also offered to all XPS customers. This gives them rapid access to a dedicated team of XPS-trained technicians who use robust case management tools to quickly diagnose problems and minimize downtime.

The Dell XPS M170 has a full range of personalization options, including a transparent personalization cover that easily snaps on to the notebook's brushed-metal lid, with included imagery from leading gaming titles. Other features include a NVIDIA(R) 256MB GeForce(TM) Go 7800 GTX Ultra graphics card, 17-inch TrueLife(TM) widescreen display, and a black and silver chassis with LED perimeter lighting in 16 different colours, which are customizable via the XPS interface of Dell's power management application, QuickSet.

The XPS desktop range begins with the XPS 200, which has dual-core processors and advanced graphics in a slim chassis about 12 inches tall and less than 4 inches wide. It also features BTX technology, seven USB 2.0 ports, optional IEEE 1394 port, one x16 PCIe slot and one x1 PCIe slot. Multimedia features include one slim CD, CD-RW, DVD or combination drive; optional single TV tuner; 13-in-1 media card reader; and 256 MB graphics cards.

The Dell XPS 200
The XPS 200 (above) and XPS 400 (below)
The Dell XPS 400

The XPS 400 is intended as a multimedia hub for the home, which runs quietly and provides easy access to ports and connectors for quick transfer of digital content. It has dual-core Pentium D 8xx processors, single-core Pentium 4 6xx processors and up to 4 GB DDR2 memory. It also features advanced graphics support including optional 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX card, and up to 1 TB(b) of data storage for photos, music, videos and games (on two internal hard drives). There is an optional dual TV tuner; and optional 13-in-1 media card reader.

The Dell XPS 600
The top-of-the-range Dell XPS 600

The top of the XPS desktop range is the XPS 600. It is aimed at gamers and enthusiasts with dual graphics and dual-core (two-in-one) processors, which enable customers to play games and stream music simultaneously without experiencing slow performance. Dell say that it features realistic video and gaming provided by up to two NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX 256 MB x16 PCIe graphics cards with scalable link interface technology. It comes with dual-core Intel(R) Extreme Edition and Pentium(R) D 8xx processors, or single-core Pentium 4 6xx processors. It has up to 8 GB 667MHz DDR2 memory (which requires a 64-bit Operating System). There is up to 1.5TB of data storage available for games and media with up to three internal drives. The chassis features LED lighting in 8 customizable colours. There is provision for expandablility with up to three media drives and six expansion slots (two PCIe x16, one PCIe x4 and three PCI slots).

Meanwhile, in Winston-Salem, north Carolina, more than 300 new North Carolina employees recently joined Dell Chairman Michael Dell, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley and community leaders in opening Dell's third U.S. manufacturing site, which is the company's largest.

The new, 750,000 square-foot plant, which reflects a Dell investment of more than $100 million, will build Dell's award-winning OptiPlex and Dimension desktop systems for customers in the eastern U.S.

The new Dell plant in North Carolina
The Dell plant at Winston-Salem, North Carolina

"Dell's growth, and the need for our new North Carolina plant, is the result of the direct way we do business and the efficiency, productivity and customer focus of our employees," said Michael Dell. "Our manufacturing operations give us a competitive advantage and we're confident this new plant will add to that."

The Dell plant will employ about 700 people in its first year of operation and grow to 1,500 employees within five years. Dell also recently opened new customer contact and distribution facilities in Oklahoma and Ohio, and has increased employment at its Central Texas and Middle Tennessee operations over the past year. Overall, Dell employment in the U.S. has grown more than 20 percent since 2002.

Computers from the initial production run were donated to SciWorks, Winston-Salem's science and technology museum, as well as the State of North Carolina and regional and local governments.

"The opening of this facility means hundreds of hardworking North Carolinians now have good jobs that bring better benefits and better skills to the transitioning Piedmont Triad economy," said Gov. Easley. "In addition, the Dell project will provide more than $700 million in net revenue over 20 years to our state. This project makes good economic sense for North Carolina and we are proud to have such a well-respected global company in our state."

At maximum capacity, the North Carolina operation will produce tens of thousands of systems a day. By the end of this year, the facility will be capable of producing a computer every five seconds. The facility includes a production layout that allows computers to be tested as its components and software are installed. This "instantaneous build and test" operation allows team members to identify and correct any problems on the spot, rather than waiting until a product is completed.

Dell's decision to establish its new facility in North Carolina's Piedmont Triad region has resulted in at least seven new logistics, packaging and automation firms also locating in the area, according to the Piedmont Triad Partnership. These related businesses are creating several hundred new jobs, in addition to the jobs at Dell, according to the regional economic development partnership.

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