Dell EC280.jpgA typically smart move from Dell, which has unveiled a small PC designed specifically for China.

Or rather, for the millions of first-time Chinese PC buyers with limited budgets, space and needs.

The basic specification for the Dell EC280 is hardly likely to
excite technofiles — it sports a low-end Intel Celeron processor and
Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition. But with a starting price of just
2,599 yuan, it is a lot more affordable than more conventional PCs.

Dell has astutely realised that there is a huge untapped market in
China with first-time buyers who are attracted to a western-branded PC
but don't need all the features and certainly don't want to pay western
prices.

The product was developed by engineers at Dell's China Design Centre
in Shanghai to fit this requirement. Dell's CEO Michael Dell was in
Shanghai earlier this week to unveil the EC280 as well as talk up
Dell's new-found interest in China. He said:

This is a product designed first for the demands of Chinese
customers. Today there are one billion people online worldwide, and
many of the world's second billion users are right here in China. We
intend to earn their confidence and their business.”

As well as limited budgets, Dell has realised that many Chinese homes don't have a lot of space.

The EC280 has been shrunk to occupy one eighth the space of a
traditional desktop PC. The trick has been accomplished by eliminating
all but one of the expansion slots found in conventional PCs.

Power consumption has also been cut back which means the EC280 runs cooler and quieter than conventional PCs.

The new product is offered in two hardware options and three display
choices: 17- and 15-inch LCD displays or a good old-fashioned 17-inch
CRT for those who miss the glow of cathode rays.

Buying over the internet or by phone are practices that are nowhere
near as extended in China as they are in the west. Nevertheless, Dell
hopes that Chinese consumers will warm to its legendary direct sales
model.

But just in case, it has two “customer experience centres” in
Chongqinq and Nanjing for those who want to see the EC280 in action
before buying.

The Chinese PC market is second only to that of the US in size and
grew 26% last year. The leader is Lenovo followed by Founder
Technology, while Dell jostles with HP for third place.

For more on the Dell EC280, read this piece by Bruce Einhorn, BusinessWeek's excellent technology writer.


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