DALLAS - Flamingo pink laptops, anyone? Computer maker Dell Inc. is hoping its image as a stodgy maker of desktop and notebook computers is about to end, and it's banking on some new color options and designs to do the trick.
In what Round Rock-based Dell says is a first wave of changes intended to turn around its lagging consumer business, the company on Tuesday unveiled a line of consumer computer products in a rainbow of eight hues, including "ruby red," "sunshine yellow" and "espresso brown."
Alex Gruzen, a former Hewlett-Packard Co. executive who's now senior vice president of Dell's consumer hardware business, said looks have become just as important as performance for consumers - and for Dell.
"Emotional appeal is a part of any consumer purchase, and we haven't had as much to offer on that," he said.
The new models include a redesigned, wedge-shaped XPSM1330 notebook that's less than an inch thick and weighs under 4 pounds. A revamped line of Inspiron notebooks feature colored magnesium alloy cases and screen sizes ranging from 15.4 inches to 17 inches. Prices start at $749 for a basic Inspiron and $1,299 for the XPSM1330.
The new products represent the latest attempt by Dell to regain some footing in the consumer PC business, which it dominated just a few years ago.
But HP is now the No. 1 maker of PCs with as much as 19 percent of the global market, compared with Dell's 15 percent, according to the most recent figures by technology research companies Gartner and IDC.
One analyst said Dell is heading in the right direction but still has a long way to go to catch up recognized design leaders like Apple Inc. Apple pioneered the use of color in personal computers with the iMac in the 1990s but its new models come in either titanium, black or white.
Forrester principal analyst J.P. Gownder, author of a new report titled "The Age of Style in Consumer PCs," said the color options were a good move for Dell but he added that the company's lack of a large-scale retail presence will make it hard for customers who want to see before they buy.
"They're just stepping into the age of style," Gownder said, "but you can't go to a Dell store and see them."
The colors highlight some of the recent changes under way since Michael Dell returned as chief executive officer in January.
The company recently started selling a few systems at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., a significant break from company tradition, and has also begun offering PCs pre-loaded with the Linux operating system instead of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows.
Dell's woes continue as well.
The specter of a Securities and Exchange Commission probe announced last August remains unresolved and the company last month announced plans to lay off 10 percent of its work force, or about 8,000 employees, over the next year as part of a broad plan to trim costs.
Shares of Dell gained 47 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $27.56 Tuesday.