November 30, 1999 11:55 AM PST
Dell's WebPC launches--with hiccups
Many users who go to the Webpc.com homepage--which launched today along with the new PC--are first greeted with this: "If you are reading this, you must be using a browser that does not have the Flash plug-in installed. For an enhanced view of this Web site you can download the plug-in for free OR continue viewing HTML only. The plug-in is only 161K. After download proceed to: Product Info."
Translation: Download extra software or click on the HTML link to get a basic rundown of the product.
Consumers also get an advertisement and a typographical error in the first sentence of text at Webpc.com: "Every webpc comes with with [sic] the Flash plug-in from Macromedia pre-installed for dazzling multimedia experiences on the Web."
For seasoned PC users, the hurdles aren't much--download the extra software if you don't have it, or make sure you know what HTML means. But for new PC buyers--a target of many sub-$1,000 products--the instructions may be confusing. This presents a marketing challenge for many PC makers, not just Dell, analysts said.
The practice of asking users to download plug-ins for viewing a Web page is becoming more common.
Dell is not alone in frustrating some users. A well-publicized e-commerce site called Boo.com launched with instructions that "if you are using a Mac, you may experience some problems."
Typos are not limited to Dell, of course. When users were unable to access Toys "R" Us' Web site this month, they were greeted with a spelling error on the Web page.
A Dell spokesman said he couldn't comment about the typo, but as for the Flash plug-in, he said: "We're looking to create an exciting multimedia experience." As for the Web site itself, Dell, like other companies, can always make improvements, he added.