Hitech Century speaks to Justin Lyles, Vice President, Consumer Design of the Dell Experience Design Group on the vision, passion and dream behind the craftsmanship, concept and design of the XPS 13 series notebooks
Crafting the Dell XPS 13
Crafting a notebook isn’t a matter of cramming in a processor, RAM, storage, a battery and bunging in a display while giving it a nifty name. For those passionate about their craft, like the team behind the creation of the latest Dell XPS 13 9300 that was showcased at the Dell Experience Live showcase at CES 2020, creating a notebook isn’t just filling in the manifest on a bill of materials. It’s more. Far more. It’s a labour of love that is years in the making.
It’s with great anticipation every year that discerning mobile workers wait for the next generation XPS 13 series model and it has been an ongoing affair since 2015 when the modern incarnation of the Dell XPS 13 that we all know and love landed in the market.
The XPS 13 is widely recognised and renowned as one of the most desirable and powerful ultraportables available on the planet. For mobile workers with a discerning eye, it’s salient benefits are immediately apparent as it the XPS 13, in all its incarnations blends a highly refined, carefully considered blend of portability, power and performance in an exquisitely crafted chassis that has, in recent versions, integrated light but durable carbon fiber.
We got the opportunity to speak to the man behind the vision and design of the XPS 13 that all know and love today, Justin Lyles, Vice President, Consumer Design of the Dell Experience Design Group about the XPS 13 family of ultraportables and about the new Dell XPS 13 9300 that was just launched at CES 2020.
Who came up with the original design concept for the Dell XPS 13 series notebooks as we know it?
I have been with Dell for 13 years now and counting. I spent the first 8 years designing XPS series products and have been involved with every level of the design process ever since with in-depth involvement on the design and evolution of the series for many years now.
When I was first brought onboard with Dell, I was involved with the creation of the core concepts and DNA of what we know as the Dell XPS 13 today. We launched the XPS 13 in 2015 and it has been a long journey and a labour of love not just for me but for the entire team behind its inception. The idea and concept behind the XPS 13 was originally conceived 3 years earlier in 2012 and we strove to perfect our vision, without compromises, which is why it took so long.
We have many ideas and concepts that aim to meet the needs of consumers but often, we don’t have the tech available at a certain point in time to make those ideas come to life in a practical or cost effective fashion. On occasion, there are new technologies but it’s not about putting the latest thing into a notebook. What is paramount is what is best for the customer.
The biggest challenge, especially for me, is understanding and predicting what the customer would want in 2 to 3 years. We have to think of the future and what we want the customer in the future to want in their devices. We have to understand and derive these concepts by understanding user behaviour and current technologies as well as what is happening in adjacent technologies that impact and influence consumers behaviour like the automotive and architecture industry. Another interesting point to note is the impact of devices that consumers have already integrated into their lives. The best example are smartphones. All of us have them. They’re always in our pocket. They’re instantly responsive and always with us.
These increasingly ubiquitous technologies change customer expectations of how technology should work and function. Consumers now need something that is always connected, intuitive and responsive. They will not tolerate a piece of tech that doesn’t have these features. We need to keep pace with these expectations and drives PC development and design. PCs have to more responsive than ever before. These ideas drove the creation of our first Infinity Edge display in 2015 which I pioneered.
How has the XPS 13 series notebooks evolved over the years in terms of design, performance and meeting user needs?
Let me talk about what is the most important concept for the XPS brand and what drives all our design decisions – balance! That is a very important word for us. Balance for us means that both the design and features behind the brand are not affected in any negative way.
When you create a product, you have to make choices and decisions. Let me give you an example. We know customers value long battery life in a notebook. You can integrate a large battery in a notebook but this makes it thicker and heavier and then you end up with a design concept that is out of balance. We don’t want that.
For the XPS brand, we are always focusing on the best, most harmonious balance of features for our customers. This means an optimum blend of performance, design and features. In the prior example, that means offering the longest possible battery life in the right size product. We have been on that journey for many years with XPS and we continue to strive for the absolute best balance in performance, features and size for the customer.
One of the best examples of this emphasis on balance is our Infinity Edge display as it acts as the key experience point for the XPS 13 and how you interface with it. The inception of the Infinity Edge screen was the end result of understanding and meeting two key needs that consumers want – a large display and a small form factor, both of which are met with the almost bezel-less four-sided Infinity Edge display that is seen in the XPS 13 that we just unveiled at CES 2020.
Ultimately, we constantly strive to meet the needs of consumers to create the best product possible. The XPS 13 blends a small form factor, the best performance, the longest battery life and the best design of its size – these ideals are what our customers value and one of the key aspects that have made the XPS 13 a best seller. Getting everything the customer values in the right balance is the art and science of the XPS brand.
Where do you see the XPS 13 series going in the future? Are there any plans for 5G support on the cards and customisability like socketable RAM?
In order to make memory and RAM customisable, we’d have to integrate sockets which would compromise and grow the slim size of the XPS 13 dramatically and it’s not a tradeoff that is viable for the XPS 13 brand.
We would love to integrated cellular connectivity in the XPS 13 series and I always believe in always-on connectivity but we need to do it in a beautiful way. Antennas don’t like metal and don’t send signals out all too well with an all-metal chassis. We can put 5G connectivity but that means putting huge holes in the chassis. When we can find a way to do that in a practical fashion with premium materials like glass or ceramic, I would absolutely do it. At present, we are satisfied with the form factor and design of the XPS 13 at the moment but we are always exploring new technologies, designs and materials to take it to the next level.
Prices for the XPS 13 series have been steading increasing in the last few years. What plans are there to address more challenging price sensitive markets like Malaysia?
Customer expectations are getting higher with each generation so we have to do more investments in research and materials design in the product, which is to meet the customers’ expected needs of the product and brand. We would love to have a lower priced product but it would be hard to do without compromising the ideals of the XPS 13 philosophy. If we can find a lower prices XPS we would love to do so but it is a challenge for us.
What are you most proud of with the new XPS 13 9300 that was released at CES 2020?
I would have to say that I am truly proud of the four-sided Infinity Edge display which has been 6 or 7 years in the making. We had the first concept of the dsiplay in 2012-2013 with the ultimate goal of it being four sided. We have arrived at that point in time with the latest generation XPS 13 9300 where the technology caught up with our vision. Someday, we will have a truly borderless display but we are not there just yet.
One thing I would like to share is the passion and dedication that me and the team have put in the XPS 13 as we truly believe in the potential, performance and power that it offers. I hope customers will love these products as much as we did making them.
For more indepth coverage on the XPS 13, read our feature here. According to the latest updates from Dell Malaysia, the XPS 13 9300 will arrive in Malaysia starting in February 2020 with prices starting from RM5,699.