Dell, armed with a strategy that has served it well in the personal computer market, is looking to break into Asia's highly competitive plasma display television market this year. William Amelio, Dell senior vice-president and head of its Asia-Pacific and Japan operations, identified Japan and Australia as the first markets in the region in which it would sell the company's 42-inch plasma screens. 'We expect to do this around the middle of the year, but the schedule is subject to change,' he said. Dell unveiled its regular and high-definition plasma display TVs last October in the United States, with prices up to 50 per cent lower than those of other brands with comparable features. Its W4200HD high-definition plasma TV was priced at US$3,499 and the W4200ED regular plasma TV cost US$2,299. 'We've focused on sales in the US because it remains the strongest market for our consumer electronics products,' said Mr Amelio. He said Dell's worldwide consumer business made up about 15 per cent of total annual sales. In Asia, Dell will compete directly against better known consumer brands and plasma TV suppliers such as Hitachi, Samsung Electronics, Sony and Philips Electronics. Mr Amelio said plasma TV sales in Hong Kong, the mainland and other Asian markets were not a priority because Dell's business in those locations was still dominated by commercial PC sales. At its Hong Kong site, Dell's flat-panel screen sales are limited to a range of regular and widescreen liquid crystal displays. 'We continue to focus on where our strengths are,' Mr Amelio said. About 40 per cent of Dell's annual revenues in Asia-Pacific and Japan are from its combined home and small business market segment. Dell's revenues in the region over the past four quarters has totalled US$5.5 billion. Research firm Gartner reports that Dell remains the most consistently profitable PC supplier, well ahead of other top-10 vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and the pre-merger IBM and Lenovo. But Mr Amelio also said the strength of Dell's business model enabled it to offer a portfolio of computer and consumer electronic products at low prices and remain profitable. Dell entered the consumer electronics sector in 2003 as a natural extension to its commodity PC business of selling products directly to customers. This direct model allows the company to build every system to order and command favourable volume pricing on all its product components. But the move to consumer electronics also provides Dell with revenue opportunities to offset slow PC sales. Analysts at Citigroup's Smith Barney said the 10 to 15 per cent growth rates enjoyed by Dell in the US and European corporate PC markets in the past two years would probably reach zero per cent this year and early next year. Mr Amelio said Dell expected to continue gaining share in Asia, where PC penetration rates were lower than in the west.