January 14, 2006 During the first Gulf War, I had the misfortune to be travelling around Asia and Europe carrying the very first Apple Macintosh portable – indeed, it was more a luggable than a portable, and with check-ins routinely three to four hours before international flights at that time, and personal computers eyed with great suspicion, I grew to both love and hate the machine for the trouble it caused me as I schlepped it around. More than a decade later, seeing Dell’s XPS Mobile Concept gave me the same autonomous shudders a Vietnam veteran gets when he hears a helicopter. The XPS is BIG – some reports place it at up to 18 pounds. The really weird thing is – I want one!
We don’t normally write in the first person at Gizmag, but such is the way this concept computer has polarized opinion, this story needed it. Our main man at the CES where Michael Dell unveiled the concept, Gizmag's US Managing Editor Dave Weinstein, thinks the idea is cool but waaay niche. He’s more bullish about the XPS because the computer industry did what the car industry does – it has shown a concept then sought feedback in a far broader and empirical manner than Auto Expo exit interviews . There’s an official forum on the Dell site where everyone can have a say about everything from the rumoured weight to just how badly the official image has been photoshopped.
But Dave is less enthusiastic, he spends far too much time in transit lounges and planes and taking a computer to meetings to consider wrestling a computer of the magnitude of the XPS.
I, however, do want one. Because when I go somewhere other than my office, I can forego the need to squeeze work and email into every minute. When I do work, I want the big screen and the full-size keyboard. And when I’m not at home, I still want high-definition TV and surround-sound audio.
After working on more than 60 different magazine titles in the last 30 years, I have been asked countless times “what’s the best car, what’s the best motorcycle, mobile phone, computer, home theatre ad infinitum.”
My answer is always the same – “what do you intend to use it for?” – the best gizmo for the job will depend on exactly what job you want it to do. The XPS seems ideal for a particular and quite narrow niche market - demanding computer users who don’t want to compromise when travelling, and who figure that carrying around really heavy things is probably good for their health.
The XPS is an ideal portable desktop and should Michael Dell deem the niche broad enough to bring it to market, he can be assured that he’ll sell at least one of them.
… and as Dave Weinstein says, “it’d be great if the computer industry, and the consumer electronics industry in general, did a bit more concept testing this way rather than experimenting by releasing new products with features that aren't quite what consumers are looking for.”