- 18 Mar 09, 10:37 GMT
For many years Dell was regarded by some people as the anti-Apple firm.
The company was founded on the ethos of selling computers to as many companies and individuals as they could.
Dell computers were grey, drab boxes that lacked soul, in as far as a computer can have a soul.
They served a highly utilitarian purpose: they delivered cheap computers to the masses and have helped drive down the cost of computing power, putting it into the hands of many millions of people.
But Dell became synonymous with dull.
Almost two years ago Dell endeavoured to turn that perception around - first by offering colours for many of its laptops and then partnering with artists to add designs to machines.
Its latest step is to launch a laptop, called the Adamo, whose sole purpose is to make people re-think their perceptions of Dell.
I spent an hour with the Adamo at South by SouthWest trying to find out if Dell indeed had managed to turn heads and shift expectations.
At first glance, the silver, or Pearl, Adamo looks not to dissimilar to the aluminium Macbook and MacBook Pro range of computers. Indeed both Dell and Apple are using a unibody design to make the machines out a single metal sheet.
The clean lines of the Macbook range, however, have given way to more stylised details.
A Dell staffer told me that the company had wanted to invoke that sense of personal ownership people have with special pieces of technology.
Everywhere you look on the machine there is detail, detail and more detail.
The ventilation grill at the back of the machine is not just a drilled piece of metal - it is a curved sheet in which the holes fade away.
The top of the machine is part glass and part metal that has been etched by laser to produce a geometric design.
The little support legs under the machine have been designed to within an inch of their lives.
There are none of the usual Windows and Intel stickers - a fact the Dell staffer was only to happy to point out. Instead they too are etched into the underside of the machine.
Some of the legal notices will be hidden under a removable panel, which was created purely so the legal notices could be hidden from view.
The laptop is described by Dell as the world's thinnest - but if you were to look at the MacBook Air and Adamo in profile, Apple's machine looks a lot thinner.
But that is largely to do with the stylised tapering of the MacBook Air, and in fact, the Dell staffer points out, the Adamo is thinner at its thickest point than the Air at its thickest point.
Certainly, the Air is lighter than the Adamo, no matter how you measure it. Although the Adamo feels a lot more durable than the Air.
It is hard not to think that Dell have tried to out-Apple, Apple. And in some regards they have succeeded.
But why is Dell releasing a $2,000 laptop at a time of recession?
I was told it was because people will always want fine cars and fine watches and that Adamo is no different.
It is a luxury laptop for the fashion conscious - as evidenced by the magazine photo shoot images that accompany the launch.
But what about its performance? Does that matter? After all a fine watch tells the time no better than a cheap quartz wristwatch.
The specs of the Adamo are probably the most underwhelming aspect of the machine.
It has a 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD hard drive. You won't be editing much video on this machine, and some might question the value the laptop offers under the hood.
People have made the same point about the MacBook Air - although it does have a faster processor and better integrated graphics and, crucially for road warriors, is a one pound lighter at three pounds.
My colleague, business editor Tim Weber, pointed out in Twitter: "Are the people dissing Dell's Adamo the same people who are drooling over Apple's similarly priced and under-specced Air?"
It's a fair point.
But the biggest question about the Adamo is not about its size, weight or performance. It is about why Dell is launching a $2,000 luxury machine at a time when the market is crying out for innovation in the netbook market.
Dell has a number of netbooks and the market is growing rapidly. I have not seen the latest figures on premium laptops but I suspect the growth is either slow, steady or stagnant.
Dell told me that they had "modest expectations" for sale of the Adamo.
I suspect that Dell don't really care about sales of the Adamo. This isn't a balance sheet exercise this is part of a long and careful campaign to re-educate people about Dell and to shift pre-conceptions.
Given the interest surrounding the Adamo launch, sneers of Macbook Air owners aide, I think Dell is making progress.
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