Dell extends XPS series, confirms 256 MByte memory requirement for Vista PCs

New York (NY) - In a press conference to unveil Dell's an extended and updates range XPS line of products, founder and chairman Michael Dell told reporters that for any computer to be "Vista ready," it needs more than the 128 MByte of graphics memory currently recommended by Microsoft.

By way of saying Dell's new XPS computer line will indeed be "Vista ready," Mr. Dell told reporters that any computer that should be so described, requires at least 256 MByte of GDDR, as well as high-capacity SATA hard drives, "more" system RAM for "wider pathways" and a high-resolution display. Microsoft has yet to publicly announce its minimum specifications for systems to qualify for a Vista logo, though it's widely believed that Microsoft has released preliminary specifications to supporting companies, including Dell.

There have also been several indications that there will be at least two, perhaps more, tiers of qualifications, which may boil down to "Vista compliance" and "Vista support." Microsoft representatives indicated earlier that an upper tier of Vista support may be under development for high-performance computers with premium brands.

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Dell's XPS family: 200, 600 and 400 andthe M170 notebook (from left to right)

Mr. Dell's comments come by way of announcing updates to his company's premium brand, XPS. Featured in today's rollout were the new XPS desktop 400 and 200, which will joind the previously introduced 600. All three versions contain graphics cards with 256 MByte of GDDR memory standard, with models 400 and 600 including nVidia's top-of-the-line 7800 GTX cards, as promised by an nVidia press release last August. They will also be available with optional Intel single-core or Pentium D 8xx dual-core processors, and hard drive storage available in increments of 500 GByte, with the XPS 600 boasting a maximum storage capacity of 1.5 TByte with three harddrive units installed. Microsoft's Windows Media Center Edition is the standard operating system for all models.

The top-of-the-line XPS 600 integrates a 650-watt power supply standard, as well as 8 GByte of 667 MHz DDR2 DRAM when 64-bit Windows is installed. Pricing for the slim-chassis XPS 200 begins at $1150, with the standard chassis XPS 400 priced at $1100. The XPS 600 costs at least $1850, heavily decked out systems with dual-core processors dual graphics cards and a 24" LCD breaking the $6000 barrier.

There is also a new XPS-branded notebook, the M170. Like its desktop-bound brethren, M170 features 256 MByte of GDDR3 memory, with nVidia's new GeForce Go 7800 GTX mobile graphics processor standard. A 17" display is also featured with Dell's new distinctive black and silver burnished chassis. Pricing for the notebook model starts at $2700.

XPS may represent a trend among major computer and CE manufacturers, including Dell, to create distinctive upper-tier sub-brands, and enabling them to be the focus of new technology rollouts. Over a more extended period of time (measured in quarters rather than months), an upper-tier product's feature set can progress down the product line to a company's equally distinctive, mid-tier sub-brands. Distinguished from "value brands," middle tiers can extend the shelf life of products and technologies before it becomes their turn to be featured in thrift warehouse sales. Dell's distinctive mid-tier brand is now Dimension, which was also featured in today's rollout, providing what the company described as "a balance of value, performance and the latest technologies for entertainment and productivity."

Also today, Michael Dell was asked when his XPS models would include Blu-ray high-def video disc players or burners, and whether he would wait for Microsoft to include Blu-ray support in Windows Vista. Dell is a member of the Blu-ray Disc Association, and an outspoken Blu-ray proponent. Quizzing the press, Dell responded by asking if anyone knew which was the first version of Windows to support DVD? Without hearing an answer, the CEO-turned-history-instructor responded, "None," explaining that even now, Windows has no native DVD support, and that OEMs such as Dell provide their own drivers and codecs. "Computer manufacturers have always provided their own codecs," for optical video disc support, Mr. Dell remarked, "so we'll continue to do that."