WSJ: Stylish PCs Will Tackle Apple

PC buyers are often immersed in technical specifications. Lately, however, Dell design group has started to come up with designs that try to put a sense of style into their computers to better compete with Apple, according to the Wall Street Journal on Friday. [Subscription required.]

Two things have caused this awakening: the explosive growth of Appleis Mac sales and the consumer shift toward stylish notebook computers, Robert Guth and his colleagues wrote.

Dell Crystal Display

Long trapped by the fact that they donit integrate their own OS into the hardware and remembering that fancy but artificially snazzy designs donit cut it with customers, the PC makers like HP and Dell are waking up to to the deeper principles of product design and hiring people who understand computer design principles.

Ken Musgrave at Dell is one of those who understands that design isnit just on the surface. Even so, in this early days at Dell, he almost lost his job. The position was considered unnecessary. Now, however, Dell has changed its approach with computers like the Dell XPS One.

The movement comes now as PC makers have found that they need new ways to attract customers. However, the process can pose new problems for those companies without experience like Apple. "Itis a very dangerous route to go," said Sohrab Vossoughi, founder and president of Ziba Design. "Things go up, and things go down."

In addition, new manufacturing intricacies can trip up the production line, cause delays, and anger customers if quality controls are not firmly in place. Another question is whether consumers will pay a premium for the designs.

The PC manufacturers are betting that with a better understanding of design, they can woo more customers away from the competition. "We found people designing from the outside in, not the inside out," said Mooly Eden, with Intelis mobile systems group. "This was the revolution."

For now, PC makers are betting that they can equal Appleis sales surge with a better understanding of industrial design.

TMO notes, however, that thatis just part of the story. Better, sounder industrial design may help the PC makers compete with against each other, but itis not likely to affect Appleis current surge - which is based on many more factors than stylish and functional design.