The penny dropped when my own Father announced that his company was ordering them for their employees; the heat was really on!
Rewind; the Vostro brand, specifically established to provide Small Business owners with IT solutions. Until this point, the products were good value and worthy, but the brand had a pretty low profile. We needed a hit.
The insight; a large segment of the small-business market are highly customer-facing, and they need products that shout ‘confidence’. We needed a thin, light, ‘cool’ notebook that could survive life on the road, had the power to punch through work, and that would make no excuses in the business-class lounge.
Designing a notebook computer is about more than a nice sketch. The two most important things that the Dell design team needs to drive are the architecture, and the specification of the product. Drive poorly, and you end up with a product that is optimised for the factory instead of the user, and crammed full with every possible feature, port and widget. With notebooks especially, it’s what you choose to leave out that makes the product.
Working with layout teams at our key suppliers and employing new ‘Hyperbaric’ cooling technologies from Intel, we followed precedents set by the Dell Adamo notebook by kicking out the area behind the hinge; the reality is that business owners need traditional network and VGA cables. We also knew that if we could get all the ports away from the sides, we would be left with a blade-like profile, really allowing the thinning effort to shine. However, we also wanted an ‘honest’ front section, eschewing chamfering and other cheats to make things appear thinner than they really are; the ‘dipped’ front portion also houses the antennas and provides a degree of drop protection.
Breaking traditions of delivering ‘black boxes’ we wrapped the device in a jacket of anodised aluminium. The procurement team really delivered the bacon here; no one expected we could get a completely aluminium chassis in this price bracket.
Opening it up, we wanted a clean, uncluttered environment for getting work done. Getting brutally simple, we hid the hinges away from view; this took engagement with secondary and tertiary suppliers in the USA and China, shaving 0.05mm at time from the zinc alloy and designing one of the smallest hinge profiles ever seen in a notebook. This eventually became an iconic design feature of the product.
But it’s also about getting work done, right? Perceived quality of keyboards is closely related to the stiffness of the chassis. Magnesium is the hero here; it provides by far the best stiffness-to-weight ratio, and allowed us to go even further with the thinning. The aforementioned ‘hidden hinges’ help keep it sober and professional.
Camping out at the supplier in Taiwan, and with frequent trips to China to work with suppliers, we finally delivered a product that landed Vostro on the map, scooping multiple awards and praise from the press.
But nothing quite beats seeing my Dad using one.
- Dell Vostro V13 Hands On: Bruce Wayne’s Laptop – Gizmodo
- The Vostro #v130 gets @guykawasaki’s seal of approval - Flickr
- Workbeautifully.com – Featuring an interview with yours truly