In a no-holds barred conversation,
Siddharth: While working from home and learning from home took center stage, gaming from home also became a thing. As a PC maker, what trends did you see in the gaming sector during the pandemic?
Anand: When people were stuck at home during the lockdown, they were spending a lot of time at work, and then for leisure, they also wanted to have some fun beyond movies, etc, where gaming picked up pretty big. There was a time when people used to have different PCs, one for work and one specifically for gaming needs, etc. But now one of the big trends which have come is this multi-purpose device. How do you buy one product or one laptop which can do what you want to do during your work and which can augment as a gaming device? That has led to the development of a lot of innovations that products like
That has also led to the trend where gaming is one of the fastest-growing segments within the overall PC as a category. The other thing is we have seen that during especially the last two years, you have all kinds of people playing games, even a lot of teenagers, is what you normally associate gamers with but then men, even a lot of women, they all have started playing games, so gaming has really acted as a unifier where multi-purpose multiplayer games, etc are unifying different people and then another trend we saw was gaming has really moved beyond Tier one cities; what we are seeing now is especially in Tier 2 , Tier 3 cities – huge adoption of online gaming has happened and that’s also resulting in the adoption of PC in those areas.
Even Esports as a segment has really grown. If you recollect about 3-4 years back we used to have one or two or three major gaming tournaments which we can call Esports, but last year I remember at least 15-20 of them took place. Various smaller companies have come up, and some of the big acquisitions also happened in the gaming space that way – Esports is growing, multi-purpose devices are growing, gaming has acted as a unifier, across demographies people are using it and it’s going beyond tier 1 cities.
Siddharth: Back in the day, if anyone wanted to get into gaming, it was either a console or an expensive PC assembled from Nehru place. However, today gaming laptops have become almost as good as a custom-built PC, with high refresh displays, the latest GPUs, and advanced cooling systems gaming laptops achieve this while being thinner and lighter than before. Your views on the growth of this segment?
Anand: If you look at the last five years, the gaming segment (PC) has grown almost 20 times. This year it is expected to be almost a million devices in CY23. That’s huge, from a number point of view and these are IDC numbers. But when we look at our product, why is a customer buying a laptop? We launched Alienware X14 recently. If you look at that as a product as a multi-purpose device, the product earlier used to be bulky or thermals were such that you have to have a thick profile and then you have to carry it along with very heavy adapters and your battery life despite all that would be around 2-3 hours, not more than that.
Alienware as a product and as a brand has been in the industry for more than 25 years now and we have been kind of shaping the trends in the gaming segment as a brand. What we have looked at and worked on is, making designs as per the customer’s needs. We listen to the customers, their feedback, and what they are wanting and they were exactly saying what you are saying that people want a single device that is thin and light, so we made Alienware pretty thin and the X14 is the thinnest 14-inch gaming laptop in the world. The way technology innovation has improved and we are really focusing on it and what is making some of these things possible is the element of design, the element of the quality of material that we use, and the innovation that we are driving to make these things happen. Some of these things are driving this progress.
Siddharth: The semiconductor shortage affects multiple industries and in terms of the tech industry, the graphics card industry was really affected and even today buying a full size 3080/3090 graphics card is very difficult for a desktop PC. But, on the laptop side, there are a lot of laptops with mobile GPUs of the 30 series. Do you think this particular shortage in terms of the full-size graphics card has helped the gaming laptop industry?
Anand: I won’t comment on the shortage, but the demand on the consumer side and the need is really rising and something needs to fulfill that demand and the devices with innovation that are coming out from companies like Dell is what is catering to that need. And I believe that when the market is growing at the speed that I mentioned, there is space for everyone and this growth of laptops as a sub-segment of gaming will continue to be there.
Siddharth: With the Alienware X14 and m15 R7, how important was it to make it that really slim form factor?
Anand: The form factor was critical because we really wanted to listen and cater to our customers’ needs. We have our listening forums where our teams listen to consumers; they look at community websites, and social media and there’s a lot of research that goes behind designing a product like X14 or m15 because both are serving different needs of the customer. The X14 is one of the thinnest products. It is meeting the needs of our customers who’re looking for a device that is small yet powerful and portable enough. Whereas m15 is the most powerful 15-inch Alienware laptop ever. It has one of the most powerful graphics cards along with 170 Watt TDP performance. These are really powerful devices, so when we design these products we listen to customer feedback, we look at what their requirements are, and then we arrive at these two products where one which is catering to the mobile customer and the one which is catering to the power-hungry customer who is really looking for powerful and strong devices.
Siddharth: What kind of initiatives is Dell taking in terms of maybe organizing an Esports tournament, or just encouraging and teaching the whole community about the new devices and technologies? How is Dell engaging with them?
Anand: In one of our surveys we witnessed that almost 49% of women have started playing during the pandemic and they started with mobile phones and almost 37% of the mobile gamers say that they want to shift to PC gaming.
Our belief is that gaming is a unifier and irrespective of what your gender is, one needs to be inclusive and we see this opportunity as a really inclusive effort. We do Dell Futurist, a program which is into its third edition. We have a partnership with Team Liquid globally and we have Ankit Panth from Team Brutality, who is our brand ambassador, and what we do over here is arrange gaming master classes for college goers. We arrange a gaming master class for people at large and then customers interact with our ambassadors and they understand how to improve their gaming, what kind of devices they can use, how to have the best gaming setup for you, know them to have a better chance of winning and improve their performance when they are playing. These are the things that we already do today and we’ve been doing it for the last three years.
Siddharth: Asus and Lenovo have launched their own gaming mobile phones as well. As you said, mobile phone gaming is a huge sector, PUBG when it came it just took off and now multiplayer voice chat enabled games are the flavor of the season and Alienware is a very famous brand. Everybody relates the alien face design to a gaming laptop. Do you think we would ever see an Alienware gaming phone as well?
Anand: I’m not really supposed to comment on it, but It’s like we as a company really believe that gaming is a unifier and we embrace all forms of gaming. Our belief is that there is an entry to an experience and then customers evolve. People who use it like I’ve quoted sometime back that, “About 37% of the consumers who were surveyed said they want to go to a PC at some point in time”. We still see a huge opportunity in our core area for us to address the customer’s needs and that is where our focus is going to be.
Siddharth: The Alienware X14 and m15 have CryoTech technology for thermal management, being incredibly thin, how difficult it was to keep the temperatures in check without affecting performance.
Anand: What happens with Alienware’s Cryo-Tech™ cooling technology is that you have advanced thermal cooling, there we have four different fans running at four different speeds to dissipate the heat. Additionally, we have something called ‘Element 31’ which is a gallium-based TIM encapsulated in silicone that provides a special cooling protection to the laptop and that’s how we achieve it.
Let me put it differently, when we use the Cryo-Tech™ technology, we have very strong intensive performance and what Cryo-Tech™ technology does is it reduces the internal temperature via the independently controlled fans that I mentioned and we have a unique CPU vapor chamber where we use liquid phases to completely dissipate the heat. Using this unique technology is available only on Alienware, we are able to attain almost 25% better improvement in thermal resistance for our customers who want to play for a long time on a gaming laptop.
Siddharth: What should customers lookout for this year from Alienware and Dell?
Anand: We’ll continue to have these new products available to the customer and gaming in general is a priority area for us and you will see a lot more news hearing from us in the days to come during the festival and during the back to school campaign, we are also running various offers like warranty upgrade, easy EMI to make consumer purchase experience easier.