It's been more than a decade since Dell acquired Alienware, at the time a standalone boutique gaming PC builder like Falcon-Northwest and Maingear. For a period of time, acquiring system builders was the thing to do—HP bought VoodooPC and OCZ (now owned by Toshiba) purchased Hypersonic. Out of those, Alienware is the only brand still standing under its original name (VoodooPC was relaunched/rebranded as ‘Omen by HP’ and Hypersonic shut down in 2010), and it might expand into PC components like the best gaming motherboards and even the best graphics cards.
As it stands, Alienware is most closely associated with Dell's line of edgier gaming PCs and laptops, though users can also purchase Alienware monitors, mice, mouse pads, keyboards, and headsets. Supplementary gear, basically. Expanding into core components would be a bigger leap, and it's something Dell is "absolutely" considering.
"It absolutely is," Dell XPS general manager Frank Azor told PCGamesN when asked if Dell was looking into the component market for its Alienware brand. "And, you know, funnily enough talking to NZXT their inspiration for the company was Alienware because they wanted the Alienware chassis [Predator] and they didn’t want to necessarily buy the entire system—and that’s the only way you’ve ever been able to get an Alienware. But, yeah, it’s absolutely a segment of the market that we are looking at."
This type of crossover in the PC market is fairly common among peripheral makers—Corsair sells everything from cases and cooling to memory and storage drives, and NZXT recently introduced its first motherboard. However, Alienware would be the first boutique brand that I'm aware of to sell its own brand components. Well, if this ends up happening, of course.
Azor added the caveat that Dell would have to come up with a long-term plan before this would be a viable move, and also formulate a strategy for standing out among some tough competition. While this is something Dell is considering, offering Alienware components hasn't been a primary focus up to this point "because we struggled to really come up with ways we can do it better."
"What we don’t want to do is just put our name on something. The Alienware name comes with a brand promise, and if we don’t deliver on that promise to customers consistently, they’re going to stop trusting the Alienware brand. So if I can’t deliver that promise in a product category, I’m not going to try because I have too much to lose," Azor added.
Interestingly enough, this same concern is what ultimately led Dell to ditch negotiations to acquire Elgato, the popular streaming hardware maker that ended up being bought out by Corsair.
From my reading out of it all, it sounds like Azor wants to do this, but is approaching the idea with plenty of trepidation. Starting with SSDs seems like a safe venture, more so than diving right into motherboards and graphics cards. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.
An earlier version of this article stated that Alienware was the only boutique brand still standing out of Alienware, Hypersonic, and VoodooPC. It's been updated to clarify that VoodooPC has been relaunched/rebradned as 'Omen by HP'.