Wednesday, December 31, 2008
There was an interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal that says Michael Dell was “revamping the team hired to overhaul Dell.” In other words, he’s overhauling the overhaul. Now I’ve long been a big fan of Dell, so I don’t want to pile it on. But the company is also a classic case study of what can happen when growth stalls. Like most companies, Dell has had to contend with stepped up competition (primarily a resurgent HP) and the nasty economy. And like many companies, it has tried to reverse its fortunes by expanding beyond its traditional core competency. Michael Dell has been famously quoted as saying he now wants his namesake to be such an innovator that it creates “lust” for its products.
That’s what I don’t get. Dell built its strength on being cheaper, faster, and more reliable than any PC maker on the planet. That’s how they won me and millions of other customers over on their way to becoming the world’s #1 market share leader. Any “lust” they created was lust for getting a well-built PC quickly and to custom specifications, not on developing innovative new products.
I’m not a computer industry expert and I won’t pretend the playing field hasn’t changed, but it seems like Austin-based Dell is playing Dallas Cowboys to HP’s San Francisco 49ers, relinquishing their hard-won dominance in the face of resurgent competitor. But this isn’t the NFL of the 1980s and there’s no reason Dell can’t reclaim its lead if it focuses on its strengths and leaves technological lust creation to companies born to it, like Apple. Which, by the way, somehow managed to get Wal-Mart, the world’s most powerful discounter, to distribute the iPhone at full price (OK, a $2 discount). If that doesn’t prove the power of focus and consistency, I don’t know what does. Dell should get back to being Dell again.