Is it in with the new, out with the old at Dell.com? Last night, I wrote that Dell had added a few Penryn options to one of its most popular laptops, the XPS M1330. Now comes word that the company may have dropped systems using AMD processors from Dell.com altogether. This screenshot appeared on Dell.com's site earlier today (though it seems to have suddenly disappeared).
Several sites reported the news last night, pitching this as the latest blow to a company already reeling from the botched rollout of its most important product, the native quad-core Barcelona found in Phenom desktop chips and the latest Opterons for servers. While it certainly isn’t great news, it may not be as dire as it sounds. Why? Dell has spent the past year bulking up its retail channels--signing deals with Best Buy, Staples, Wal-Mart and others, and Dell PCs are now available in 10,000 retail stores worldwide. So the company could simply be allocating its inventory of AMD processors, which are typically less expensive, to PCs sold in retail where margins are thin and where AMD is already a big part of the mix. And it may be trying to use up its remaining inventory of Athlon X2s while it waits for the Phenom B3 stepping, which fixes a problem with the cache, and faster clock speeds sometime in Q2.
Then there's the odd fact that Dell.com still seems to be taking orders for at least one laptop with an AMD processor, the Inspiron 1501 with a 15.4-inch display, which currently starts at $600 and offers three different AMD chips: the 1.8GHz Athlon 64 X2 TK-55, the 1.9GHz Turion 64 X2 TL-58, or the 2.0GHz Turion 64 X2 TL-60.
All of which means this may not be as big a deal as it seems. The most likely explanation: Dell is offering a limited number of AMD-based systems almost exclusively in retail, where they tend to be very competitive on price. I'm checking with Dell for some clarification on all of this. [Updated: 2/8/2008 12:07 PM EST: Dell has posted a full response on its Direct2Dell blog, but here's the short version: "We currently offer AMD-based Inspiron notebooks and desktops through our retail partners like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Staples. We still offer AMD-based SMB and enterprise-based notebooks, desktops and servers through Dell.com. We are committed to AMD as a long-term partner to provide the maximum choice for our customers."]