Dell’s netbook: is brand another market differentiator?

DelllogoDell has gone on record to say that they’re entering the netbook market this week, so it could happen any day now. I’m sure there won’t be many surprises in terms of the features and look, so again I wonder what will make this offering different from this market.

We’ve already identified a few aspects that cause people to pick one netbook over another: price is a definite factor as are the Linux implementations that some vendors customize and offers. Dell may be partnering with Box.net to offer online storage capabilities, but even that is something that’s been done; Asus has been talking about that for a few months. Makes me wonder if most of the Dell models (assuming there’s more than one) will offer wireless broadband: when you’re out and about, you’ll need a way to access that online storage, no? Or they could be hooking up with a carrier to subsidize and therefore reduce the up-front device cost.

Since we get so many questions about "build quality" when we look at these devices, I’m wondering if "brand name" is part of the equation here. Dell is joining HP and Lenovo as another "household name" vendor, at least here in the United States. Sure, Acer and Asus might be familiar to some consumers, but I think Dell and HP offer stronger brand recognition. Many people equate brand names with quality, which is why I’m tying the two together here, but perhaps I’m off-base.

Along with the brand name factor comes marketing. Why are names like Dell and HP so well known? Part of the reason is that most people have seen print or television ads from these companies. Plus, they walk into the local brick-and-mortar electronics chain and see far more Dell and HP computer models than they do from other brands. And those models are featured in the weekly circulars… even more brand reinforcement.

I hadn’t thought about branding on netbooks up to now, but with Dell entering the market, I’m thinking that it’s another way to differentiate a netbook that’s similar to so many others out there. Thoughts?

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