Dell throws an Armani bash for the XPS One

At a customer event at an Armani store in New York last night, the company officially launched the XPS One, a PC/high-def TV which is Dell's answer to the Gateway One and Apple's iMac.

NEW YORK CITY (BetaNews) - Armani Casa, an exclusive home furnishing shop in Manhattan's trendy SoHo neighborhood, isn't a conventional location for a computer product rollout. But the unusual setting made real sense for last night's customer celebration of the launch of Dell's design-oriented XPS One, the latest entry into a category of all-in-one desktop units already populated by Apple and Gateway.

For one thing, unlike some Dell hardware in recent days, the XPS One isn't available in consumer electronics (CE) stores. Dell sells the new all-in-one unit -- which pulls double duty as a Vista-enabled PC and high def TV -- only through its original customer channel: the Web, said Ryan Salzer, a Dell product manager, interviewed by BetaNews at last night's customer event.

Although the XPS One started shipping last month, lots of Dell customers haven't gotten a look yet at Dell's answer to the Gateway One and Apple's iMac.

Holding last night's event at a handy spot in the heart of Manhattan gave customers like Victor Perez, the owner of an IT consultancy called VIP Solutions, a chance to see and get their hands on Dell's XPS One.

"This product is even nicer than I would have thought," Perez said, as he banged away on a XPS One unit set up for the night in a Dell "digital living room" on the upper level of the Armani store. Customers also sat down at all-in-ones situated in a digital dining room on the same floor, and in a den and bedroom at the bottom of Armani's long winding staircase.

Beyond its consulting work, VIP Solutions sells PCs from Dell, Gateway, HP and other OEMs to its corporate customers. Perez said he hasn't gotten the opportunity to actually view the Gateway One. But he has played around with the Apple iMac.

"Dell's all-in-one is much slicker than the iMac, and it has some really cool features, like Windows Vista Home Premium, a Blu-Ray DVD, which gives you high-def. The price is great. And this machine is running Vista unbelievably fast, probably because of the (Intel) quad-core processor," Perez told BetaNews.

The premium version of the XPS One with Blu-ray included starts at $2,399.

Other users at the event noted additional features they especially liked, such as a proximity sensor that displays a red arc in a corner of the ultra wide high def screen, and a portable IR keyboard, viewed by some as more workable at this stage of the game than a Bluetooth alternative.

But why did Dell choose Armani Casa for the customer event, considering all of the other rentable real estate in Manhattan?

"The XPS One is a really elegant machine, and we wanted it to be surrounded by elegant things," summed up Dell's Salzer.

At the Armani Casa, Dell's unit was indeed surrounded by vases, dishware, pillows, bric-a-brac, and other houseware items from the world renowned fashion design house. Some of these items were stacked on shelves along the walls, gallery style. Others had been strategically placed on couches, tables, and other high-end furniture.

But there could have been another reason for selecting this setting, too -- one not mentioned by anyone. The XPS One is a home product, meant as much for having fun with than anything else. The event at the Armani Casa was good fun, too. And while it might not always be that fashionable to admit it, don't most people like to enjoy life?

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