Build Your Dell Like a Nike Shoe

Although the majority of laptops on the market today are still drab shades of colors, things are slowly getting bright and funky.

Large computer makers such as HP and Dell already offer radical-looking notebooks for those who want to look more party than business. Both companies currently sell products that feature eye-catching artwork that’s imprinted on the notebook’s glossy plastic outer lid and/or palm rest.

Starting next year, however, Dell is going to take things to a whole new level by allowing PC buyers to stylize their own. While Dell has always offered users a high level of customization of a computer’s internals, by next year customers will be able to specify the colors, patterns and even textures of their next purchase.

At the head of this initiative at Dell is Ed Boyd, who joined the company last year. Unlike many of Dell’s hires, Boyd doesn’t come from the computer industry. Rather, he used to work at Nike where he designed new sunglasses and shoes.

Dell may be borrowing a concept already used in the athletic wear business. Nike’s NIKEiD allows consumers to customize footwear, clothing and other athletic accessories in colors and styles not found in store – and Dell could be looking to apply the same to computers.

"We’re pushing the idea of [made-to-order computers] to the next level," Boyd said to BusinessWeek. Boyd now helps to manage a design team of over 120 worldwide.

One of Dell’s new laptop lines, the Studio, is leading the way for new, attractive designs. Launched late June, the Dell Studios gave customers a myriad of colors to choose from, including those typically not found on computers, such as purple, lime green and tangerine orange.

The Studios got even funkier with the introduction of the special Mike Ming edition in August, which exceeded company sales expectations. "I got an e-mail from Michael saying: ’Keep going, going, going,’" Boyd said.

Just this week, the Dell Studio line grew even more diverse with the introduction of three more innovative artists who will grace the lid covers of the notebook line with special artwork.