Powerful computers and competitors were fit to be featured this past week. Let's take a closer look.

Dude, you are so not getting a Dell
Things are starting to get spiffed up at Dell Computer (NASDAQ:DELL). The country's leading computer maker (and Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation) is now pitching a high-end XPS line of high-octane desktops, laptops, and even fancier television sets.

It's a good move by Dell, which I seem to associate lately with marketing materials promoting entry-level $399 systems. Not that there's anything wrong with catering to the low-end market; it's just that way too many entry-level users never really outgrow the bargain-priced models. Emphasizing its higher-end fare may help margins as well as the perception of Dell's brand in luxury computing. Until now, high-end systems on the consumer side were usually the handiwork of niche players like Alienware and Falcon Northwest. Their systems are geared toward diehard gamers.

With the eventual release of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) oft-delayed Vista operating system, higher-end systems that are certain to handle Mr. Softy's new platform might actually be a more cost-effective bet than going for the cheap stuff, which may need to be upgraded sooner rather than later.

Dell could certainly use the boost. Its stock has had a wonderful run in the past, but it has gone nowhere since Stock Advisor recommended it last year.

And Mr. Softy makes three
The Vista operating system may be a year or two away, but Microsoft's vision toward the future has already taken a significant step, now that the software titan has officially thrown its hat into the paid-search space. Setting up its own contextual advertising was simply a matter of time. The company gave LookSmart (NASDAQ:LOOK) the heave-ho last year, and its current deal with Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) will be a likely casualty once Microsoft gets its marketing network up to speed.

Until now, Yahoo! and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) have dominated paid search. Content providers have turned to one or the other as a way to monetize their websites. It's easy to see why, considering that Google and Yahoo! have established a wide pool of advertisers, willing to pay reasonable sums for targeted leads. Microsoft has to be taken seriously, since its MSN.com property of sites is one of the Internet's most popular destinations. If it is able to expand its offering into something like Google's AdSense, opening it up to third-party publishers of all sizes, Microsoft's entry could matter in a hurry if the targeting is spot-on and the payouts are competitive.

Either way, make room for one more at the paid-search table. By the look of Microsoft's girth, I'm guessing it packs quite the appetite.

The headlines behind this week's stories:

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves to take a look back, even though he realizes that an investor cannot live off the rearview mirror alone. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Foo l has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.