Dell: Fancy laptop colors are harder than they look

Dell: Fancy laptop colors are harder than they look

Summary: Dell has made a big splash with various laptop and desktop colors as it aims to appeal to consumers. The problem: Those laptop paint jobs aren't easy.

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TOPICS: Laptops, Dell
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Dell has made a big splash with various laptop and desktop colors as it aims to appeal to consumers. The problem: Those laptop paint jobs aren't easy.

dellred.png

You'd think a company that pioneered just-in-time inventory and build-your-own PCs would figure out something as simple as painting a laptop. Turns out there's dust, mass production issues and other problems resulting in delays of Dell's XPS M1330 and Inspiron PCs. Perhaps that's why Dell never offered colorful models before--it was inefficient.

The issues--documented by a Wall Street Journal story on Wednesday--highlight the problems Dell has as it transitions to be more consumer friendly.

dellgreen.pngI went through Dell's blog to find the original blog posts, which were missed by most of us. The initial delay posts surfaced on Dell's blog in July. The details on behind the delay surfaced earlier this month. Here's a look at the painting problems from Dell's own blog.

Here's what Alex Gruzen, senior vice president of Dell's consumer products group, wrote in a post Aug. 3:

Currently, we have worked through about 10% of our backlog and will focus on improving this going forward. Despite our best efforts, we may not be able to ship some orders before the original estimated ship date we gave you. In those cases, Dell will be contacting affected customers to let them know. Details will vary by region.

When you order a system, the estimated ship date factors in our best currently available information, including the number of orders in front of you and the availability of parts. It should not change unless something impacts one of these factors. If that happens, we will contact you.

As Lionel mentioned in an earlier post, we have found the production ramp more difficult than we expected—let me take a few minutes to explain the process. Before we begin shipping products to customers, we build a sizeable number of units to test our manufacturing process and to help flush out any issues that may impact our ability to build in volume. These test builds are a fraction of what we expect to build at full production. Once we start building a larger number of units, we may see issues that pop up in only one or two of them, but which require larger volumes to reveal themselves.  Since it's hard to tell if the issue is an isolated one or if it will affect a large number of units down the road, we investigate each one thoroughly. When that happens, it slows our build process.

And that's where the paint comes in: Gruzen noted that Tuxedo Black is the only color that's meeting Dell's quality standards. He details more:

The finish on the XPS  M1330 is similar to a custom paint job on a car, but with one additional complexity—on a car, typical viewing occurs from several feet away. With a notebook, the typical viewing range is much closer... sometimes a foot or less. This requires a different level of attention to detail.  Why do I bring that up? There was no problem painting hundreds at a time.  But as we increased the volume, otherwise manageable factors like dust contamination caused our successful yields to decrease.  Adding to the complexity, the Crimson Red and the Pearl White colors require more coats of paint and more touches to create the finished product—that means there is more opportunity for dust contamination.

 All this ultimately results in fewer finished parts from the paint line than we expected.  You may have noticed on Dell.com yesterday we discontinued the Pearl White color. The reason is that we are just not able to produce the kind of volumes of high quality product that we need to support demand. It takes about 5 coats of paint to get the appearance we were looking for.

Needless to say Dell customers weren't pleased. While Dell has put its accounting mishaps behind it this Dell 2.0 transition is still ahead.

Topics: Laptops, Dell

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23 comments
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  • No surprise

    Dell isn't using dyed plastics for the casing, they're spray painting the lids. What is it about PC makers that they think color casing means the front bezel on a tower or the lid on a laptop?

    Wait. Nevermind. PCs are designed by geeks who think plaid polyester is hot fashion.
    frgough
  • Henry Ford said it best

    When Henry ford said that you can have your Model T in any color you want as long as its black. This is true as well for your Dell they should just say consumers can have it their Dell in any color they want as long as its Grey or Black. Who needs colors for something that will be either under a desk, in a cabinet, or in the case of a laptop when its open and being used you don't see the color anyways so who cares.
    jfp
    • Obviously the multitudes paying for it

      Need, want, desire it.
      No_Ax_to_Grind
  • Pretty laptops with Vista

    Dell is getting hammered by Apple.

    http://www.macworld.co.uk/mac/news/index.cfm?RSS&NewsID=18880

    [b]A total of 28 per cent of respondents who plan to purchase a laptop in the next 90 days say they'll get a Mac -[/b]

    The article suggests it's the iPhone halo, but I think it's a combination of iPhone and Vista.

    A third of the laptop market up in smoke and Dell's answer is make them pretty colors. ROFL! Up next, Microsoft tries Vista feng shui.
    Chad_z
    • Funny

      Dell is getting hammered by Apple? That's funny, Dell sells more computers in a couple of days than little Apple sells in a month. As for laptops, most of the market is in the business/corporate world, where Apple isn't even a player. I am not surprised that an Apple poll showed that a sizeable percentage of respondents were planning to buy a Mac, but in the real world, Apple is a niche player. If Dell is getting hammered, it is HP, not Apple doing the hammering.

      As for Vista, it is already at about 6% market share, larger than MacOS, and is increasing rapidly (marketshare.com). I actually use Vista (do you?) and have found it to be very stable, reliable, and functional, just like XP and other previous versions of Windows. And, unlike your MacOS, Vista will actually run the software I need at work and play the games I like at home.

      Finally, the IPhone: Typical Apple product. Overpriced, overhyped, underpowered, and lacking the basic features that most of us need. In other words, another niche product. No thanks, I'll keep my Samsung.
      itpro_z
      • Yes, funny

        from a previous thread/story (http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=5872), it seemed you were at least a little open-minded, until reading more of your posts and the one above. I guess not (and there you claimed MY OS (Mac) bias was showing!).

        IT is not the "real/only world".

        See...

        Apple's surprise weapon... computers
        Brent Schlender
        http://money.cnn.com/2007/08/21/technology/apple_computers.fortune/index.htm

        "Whoop-de-doo," you might say. "A market share in the mid single digits isn't even table scraps compared to the combined force of all those Windows PC makers." [b]But if you parse the market, you realize that Apple's seemingly min-uscule share is much, much greater in the slices it has targeted.[/b]

        For one thing, Apple's PCs are truly personal. Apple (Charts, Fortune 500) has always pitched them primarily as consumer products, and they're designed with the creative individual - not the corporate IT department - in mind.

        [b]"Apple doesn't even pretend to compete for the corporate servers that are technically considered PCs because of their internal design; those account for about a fifth of the market.[/b] Nor has it ever targeted big business, other than publishers and creative departments."

        [b]"The bulk of Macs are purchased by consumers and students who make their own buying decisions rather than take what an employer issues. Apple has a 15 percent market share of PCs sold at retail and online, according to NPD,"[/b] Schlender reports.

        When given a choice, many actually do CHOOSE something other than the forced (by work/employer/IT) Windows.

        (re servers, Apple servers are great value, especially when taking pricey Windows CALs into consideration.)

        Also, re the oft bragged about 90% MS market share... if 1/5 are indeed servers, 90 - 18 brings it down to a realistic 72%, then remove all the POS units and drone business/desktop machines and the overall use of Windows (by choice) in the REAL world appears to be much less.

        ...
        MacCanuck
        • Off topic

          My post above was in response to the comment about Apple "hammering" Dell and taking a huge chunk of the laptop market. Dell is not threatened by Apple, as a large portion of their sales is in the corporate market, especially with laptops. Apple does not compete in this market, or at least not very well. My problem is not with Apple, but with overzealous Apple supporters who make statements like the one above.

          I do agree that Apple is basically a consumer products company, but you should realize that even in that market, they are not a huge player. It is true that I am biased in favor of Windows in the business market, but that is simply reality. Windows systems run the business world, and even Linux is a better choice in the office than a Mac, which, as you say, is a consumer oriented computer. I view the IPhone the same way, as a consumer device with little use in the corporate world.

          As for market share, the source that I listed uses web hits to guage market share, and I don't think that servers would influence those numbers much. While it is true that there are a lot of Windows servers, they aren't generally used for surfing.

          Finally, as a professional IT person, it is my job to supply my users with the tools necessary to do their jobs, and that is usually a Windows machine. Apple has virtually ignored the office market for many years, so it is not surprising that they are not a player here. As for home, I use Vista at home, and any survey you find will show Windows dominating that market as well, so not everyone, or even most, who have a choice, choose a Mac. Windows did not reach 90%+ market share by force, but by offering what most of us need or want from our computers.
          itpro_z
          • PLEASE that last line of yours was OUT THERE!!!!

            "Windows did not reach 90%+ market share by force, but by offering what most of
            us need or want from our computers." Ignoring the enourmous influence that IBM
            had in making MS the defacto PC OS and anything that MS produced which
            eventually became Windows is well ignoring history itself. It's like saying
            Chistianinty became so overwhelminly poplular in Europe because it was adopted
            by "the people" in dorves and NOT mentioning that Rome brought Christianity to
            the people by the sword and when the Pagans still refused to convert they brought
            the Pagans children into Christian schools, adopted Pagan rituals and traditions
            into the Christian faith like Halloween, Christmas, Easter and such. Don't gloss
            over history one can't learn if they don't know where they came from or why
            things happened.

            Pagan jim
            Laff
          • Oh Please!

            How many people were put to the sword for not using MS products? Talk about being "out there."
            3D0G
          • It's a historical example of "influence" not a litteral

            one for the other type comparison...sheeezzzz! Yes christianity was brought the
            the Pagan world by Roman showrds and influence but even that did not work as
            they wanted it to...there were the witch burnings, temple destructions, priest and
            druid killings. Etc...etc. But that was just and example in history of how people
            could think if history is not taught that Christianity simply swept through the
            lands and was gleafully adobted by all who heard it's whimsical tones and were
            awe struck by the word of God...etc...etc blah. If you skip all the blood litterally
            CENTURIES of it yeah it's impressive how it became a domonoate faith. If you skip
            the realization of the increadible influence and power that IBM has in it's time then
            sure you can be impressed by Windows gains in market share but that is not why
            and how MS gained what it did people just waking up one day and saying "Wow
            Windows is just what I want and need in an OS" Nope it was IBM decided to go
            with MS (Who are they?) Does not matter it's IBM that matters and they decided on
            MS so MS is the one for us. That is history....

            Pagan jim
            Laff
          • You completely missed the point!

            nt
            cheesyone
          • I remember...

            IBM helping make DOS the standard OS, but IBM fought Windows for years, promoting first Topview and then OS2 (written by MS) instead. IBM never figured out how to market software, but Bill Gates obviously did. No one was forced to buy or run Windows, but it swept the market in short order. Part of the reason why Microsoft rose to dominance was the incompetitence of their competitors, including Lotus, WordPerfect, IBM, and, yes, even Apple. Where you see the Devil, I just see corporations maneuvering for market position, some more successfully than others.
            itpro_z
          • Puhlease, again! Lotus & WordPerfect....

            Were NOT sunk by inferior marketing strategies. They were sunk by M$ GIVING away an inferior product! And either of those "sunken" suites still remain superior to MS Office today, in spite of the fact that almost no-one uses them at home anymore. But, just so you know, when I run Windows and want to do a spreadsheet I still use 123, and when I want to write a letter I still use WordPerfect. Better products provide better results!

            Recovering Windows addict.
            cheesyone
          • For cheesyone

            Did you use Lotus and/or WordPerfect in DOS days, or the early versions for Windows? Lotus went for years without fixing commonly reported bugs in their DOS version, and when users called them about the problems, they just told them to work around them. WordPerfect also went years without a significant update, and refused initially to migrate their software away from DOS. When they (both companies) finally produced a Windows version, it was poorly written and so buggy that it was almost unuseable. WordPerfect 5.1 and 6.0 for Windows would crash at the drop of a hat, usually losing the documents in the process, even after being saved. I supported many offices during this time, including lawyers, accountants, banks, utilities, construction companies, government agencies, you name it. Virtually all moved away from Lotus and WordPerfect at that time because Word and Excel worked, and Lotus and WordPerfect didn't. Eventually, Lotus and WordPerfect got their act together and produced some decent software for Windows, but it was too little, too late. By that time, Microsoft was beginning to make their programs interoperable (Office), and Lotus and WordPerfect couldn't keep up, having mainly only a single product. WordPerfect tried to work with Quattro Pro, and excellent spreadsheet, but differences in user interface made that difficult. Lotus bought a word processor, but fell further behind. In the end, Office dominated the market.

            Word, Excel, etc are not perfect programs, but are functional for most users. It is their interoperability, though, that made them the universal choice for almost every office environment. Give Microsoft credit for having the vision to look beyond the simple pieces to a greater whole. At least in those days, Bill Gates had the ability to look and plan years in advance, and a vision of where computers were going. Whether that vision still exists today remains to be seen.
            itpro_z
          • Once IBM gave MS it's blessing things started to change

            IBM had her own problems and with time stated to fade as MS rose (again because
            of IBM) Once Windows was introduced MS had the market tied up with DOS and
            her licensing agreements with OEMs. So the "choice" for them was to go alone
            with MS and place Windows on their systems. Yes IBM realized her initial mistake
            and tried to correct it but IBM had not the same influence and MS was not longer a
            no name nobody but a leader in the industry thanks it large part to IBM. So IBM's
            efforts failed. As for Lotus and WordPerfect good products in their time but they
            did not have the constant streem of income that MS had from her OS sales to
            OEM's and the =makers of said could not afford to keep deveoping their products
            nor could the compete with MS's bundling products to OEM's shrinking Lotus and
            WordPerfects potential client base same with Netscape. The ironic thing is that
            Lotus and Wordperfect had superior products for years even as they bagan to
            shrink because MS made very poor attempts to compete and took several attempts
            just to catch up to what Lotus and Wordperfect had out there. If any other
            company had done as poorly as MS had done with her initial few attempts at Word
            and Excel they would have died but again MS had it's steady income from her OS
            sales to OEM"S to buy her time.....

            Pagan jim
            Laff
    • Congratulations. You have officially moved

      to a new level. Meet your peers: DonnieBoy and Linux Geek.
      John Zern
    • Nah, Dell's Getting Hammered by HP. (nt)

      =o)
      Uber Dweeb
  • Bet the Pearl Ones...

    ... become collector's items.
    BanjoPaterson
  • Hope they're testing the paint for lead. (NT)

    :)
    3D0G
  • why not coloured plastics?

    Why don't they just make it with coloured plastics? less scratching, less dust...
    lefty.crupps