Sam Burd, vice president of Dell's Consumer and SMB (small and medium business) product group, said that the company is having trouble meeting the current demand for its new XPS 13 Ultrabook. Without disclosing actual numbers, he insisted that Dell is seeing just under 3 times the expected demand.
"We can't build enough of them at the moment," he said.
The higher-than-expected demand is a good thing despite Dell's frustration, indicating that consumers are looking to Ultrabooks as possible alternatives to Apple's MacBook Air and iPad tablet. The latter device is selling at more than 10 million units per quarter, a mobile domination that many would like to see toppled by the new Ultrabook sector.
But the problem with the mobile industry is that there are too many devices selling for around $399 or more. Many manufacturers have now committed themselves to follow Apple's lead by trimming the fat and focusing on several higher-priced products that offer a better experience. The iPad is a perfect example of a narrow focus: consumers are willing to shell out $600 or $700 for a solid experience, knowing that Apple is focused on that one specific hardware set instead of multiple tablets in an underwhelming portfolio.
Yet Dell can move its $999+ XPS 13 Ultrabook because it straddles the line drawn between the corporate and consumer sectors. "Half the sales of the XPS 13 are coming from enterprise [large corporate] customers. That's a lot of its success," Burd said. "We can load a company's image on the system, we can put custom BIOS settings on the system, an asset tag so they can track it."
He also added that the Ultrabook may be more appealing than other solutions because it borrows a few notable traits from Apple's tablet. "We took the things that an iPad or smartphone does well, in terms of booting up quickly, being highly mobile...and then took that even further. You can do productivity and not lose anything," he said.
Burd indicated that the next Ultrabook may incorporate touch-based controls to support Windows 8, but cost will likely determine when that feature will become available. "Touch adds cost...part of it becoming standard is that people need to see the value of that. It's still a pretty significant added cost, adding capacitive touch," he said. But he added that sister and brother products to the XPS 13 are on the horizon.