Oct 09

Michael Dell, truth-teller

The buck starts here (but why did he allow that wrong logo to appear behind?)

Apparently he likes almost all of the products he makes

Michael Dell’s remarks at a recent Churchill Club dinner in Silicon Valley shed an interesting light on the values of his company and the state of the PC industry as a whole.

First,  he dumped on the whole idea of netbooks. “Take a user who’s used to a 15-inch notebook and then give him a 10-inch netbook,” Dell said. “He’ll say ‘Hey, this is so fantastic. It’s so cute. It’s so light. I love it. But about 36 hours later, he’s saying ‘The screen’s gonna have to go. Give me my 15-inch screen back.'” Dell also said that “a fair amount of customers” weren’t too crazy about the low performance.

It won’t exactly cause an earthquake that Michael Dell is dissing the concept of an Insprion Mini 10 at the same time he’s selling them by the truckload. But just imagine the news it would make if Steve Jobs stepped up to the mike and said, “You’ll love how thin a MacBook Air is, but once you spend a few days with it, you’ll start missing that MacBook Pro.” We do hold different companies to different standards.

But Dell wasn’t done yet. Moving on to more manly machines, he said that when you get the latest processor technology, along with Windows 7 and Office 2010, “you will love your PC again. We actually have not been able to say that for a long time.” Of course, over the last three years he’s shown no signs of moral dilemma about taking people’s money in exchange for those hard-to-love Vista computers.

Clearly there’s little danger of Michael Dell ever being confused with Steve Jobs. But Dell’s own words shine a thousand-gigawatt spotlight on the stark differences between the two — as personalities and champions of different business models. Dell lives in an ultra-competitive world that’s all about numbers. Jobs lives in an equally competitive world that’s all about innovation.

The difference between the two can be seen in every product they make. If you listen, you can also hear it in every speech they make.

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  • Andrew Tonkin

    Well considered and well spoken.

    I’d only add that, in technology as well as everywhere else, NEVER insult or denigrate your current customer base. That’s why I hated that old Microsoft campaign slamming their user base for sticking with XP (or 95 or whatever).


    Note: Your current customers are the smartest, coolest, most wonderful people on Earth. Start there.

  • ken segall


    Ah, the dinosaurs! I’d almost forgotten about them! Damn, I wish we had this discussion going back then. What a treasure trove of topics that would have been.

  • Directstein

    I think it’s just better strategy and CEO-management. Jobs understands his role as spokesman better and performs it as well as the best of them.

  • you can actually tell a lot about the differences by seeing how they manage their brands… look at Apple’s offerings, some might complain that it’s a little on the skimpy side compared to the product juggernaut that is Dell, then jump on the websites. then go see the brand stores (or one of the brand stores, anyway)… look at every avenue of brand expression and compare. although ‘similar but different’, you’ll see the differences are quite clear.

    Apple seems to be genuinely pleased when they raise the bar while Dell seems to be in a perpetual state chasing fickle consumers…

    speaking of raising the bar, has anyone taken a gander at the new 27″ iMacs? and the price tags? revolutionary on both fronts…

  • ken segall


    Agreed. We could go on for weeks on the fundamental differences between the two companies at every level. And “oh my” on the new iMacs. I was in a mall last night and got my first live peek. The 27-incher is so gorgeous, I’m seriously considering trading up from my trusty Mac Pro. Ain’t so cheap though once you load that puppy with 16 gigs of memory and a 2TB drive. What the heck, it’s only money.

  • what are you going to do with 16 gigs of RAM and 2 Tb drive? reedit ‘Apocalypse Now’?

  • ken segall


    What kind of lightweight are you?

  • are you kidding? my iPhone has 32 gigs of RAM!


  • Perhaps the difference is that no one really cares about what Dell does, let alone says?

    My image of Dell is that of a cheap PC manufacturer. Their job is to churn out cheap PCs which will need to be replaced anyway in maximum 3 years. Can’t get very exited about that as a customer. Just give me cheap “cutting” edge products ;)

  • Peter

    Frankly, aside from direct web selling and JIT production, what did Dell do for the computing industry? You can’t expect Henry Ford to come up with cold fusion engines but he can make them faster.

    Jobs, on the other hand, led teams to reinvent pretty much everything.