Dell jumps into premium laptop market with Adamo

Later today, Dell is releasing its new Adamo laptop. Super thin and priced at approximately $2,000, the Adamo is Dell's bid for design respectability and market share in the emerging luxury ultraportable market.

This is an odd move for Dell. In previous years, the computer company has made a name for itself by selling well built, reliable computers for a bargain price. Entering the premium market at any time would be bold; doing so in the middle of a recession smacks of either amazing confidence or mind-boggling stupidity.

It isn't as if the market segment hasn't already been staked out. The MacBook Air, which is currently the blue-eyed boy of ultraportable laptops, weighs three pounds, is less than an inch thick, and cost somewhere in the $1,800 range when it debuted.

Non-Mac users also have a few choices. For example, the HP Voodoo Envy 133 costs approximately $2,100 and weighs 3.37 pounds. While not as thin as the Mac, it is still quite slim, and its black carbon-fiber casing makes it look like Darth Vader's laptop of choice. For that matter, ThinkPad also has a toe in the ultra-portable market with its X-series laptops. While not as sleek as the Mac or the Voodoo, the X301 is .73 inches thick and sells for approximately $1,700.

Given the crowd already in the ultraportable market, it is even stranger that Dell should choose this time to release the Adamo. Weighing in at four pounds and .65" thick at its thinnest point, the Adamo is allegedly an answer to complaints that Dell's designs are boring. However, it is still thicker and heavier than the Mac, and at $2,000, more expensive. On the bright side, with five hours of battery life, the Adamo is comparable to or better than the other ultraportables on the market.

John New, Dell's senior product marketing manager, noted that the Adamo is designed "for an affluent crowd, and somebody who's fashion forward [and] style conscious [. . .] They probably have a fine watch, and nice, name-brand accessories." Apart from the fact that "fashion forward" and "style conscious" smack more of 2007's profligacy than of 2009's self-restraint, it seems like New is missing a key factor in Dell's market positioning. For a company that has positioned itself as a reliable, well-priced computer manufacturer, re-branding as an upscale, luxury marque is not only hard, but may be seen as a repudiation of their core strengths.
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