Dell dives into entertainment market with mini-desktop

Mini desktop PC is 80 percent smaller than the average desktop minitower and uses 70 percent less energy.

Dell is going small - really small.

The computer maker today unveiled a mini desktop PC that is 80 percent smaller than the average desktop minitower and uses 70 percent less energy. The Dell Studio Hybrid runs Intel's Core 2 Duo processor and Microsoft's Windows Vista.

"Our goal was to design a desktop that fits in the office or in the living room, or anywhere space is at a premium," said Michael Scheschuk, a Dell spokesman, in a statement. "We've created a desktop PC category that combines style, performance and a high degree of energy efficiency."

Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell announced in April that the company was working on a mini desktop system. Speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm conference in Pasadena, Calif., as part of Earth Day observances, Dell said that the new machine will be the "company's smallest and most environmentally responsible consumer desktop PC."

That April announcement came just weeks after the PC maker announced that it would increase its laptop portfolio by 50 percent this year. Dell, the number two computer maker, has been chasing rival Hewlett-Packard in the PC battle -- both desktops and laptops -- for months now.

And while this new mini PC is small in design and not huge on power, Dan Olds, principal analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group, called Dell's move an interesting one.

"This isn't a speed demon by any means, but it is certainly powerful enough to do the basics, plus drive things like DVDs and Web audio and video," said Olds. "It seems like Dell has done something pretty unique for them. They've built a highly stylized product that's also highly functional and is at a great price."

The Studio PC starts at US$499.

Olds noted that the new desktop system puts Dell squarely into the family entertainment market, which has been dominated mostly by the likes of HP and Sony. And he added that Dell's move is a shot across the bow at Apple's Mac Mini since the new machine has a cheaper standard configuration, bigger hard drive and more memory.

"With this box, Dell brings solid price, performance and interesting styling that isn't out of place in a living room or family room," said Olds. "For most people, this won't be their only computer, but it may become the most used computer since it is really designed to become an entertainment hub."

Also on Tuesday, Dell launched two new Inspiron PCs, including the Inspiron 13, a US$800 13-inch laptop that will be available next week. The third release is the Inspiron 518 desktop, which is geared toward family multi-media functions.

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Sharon Gaudin

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