How Dell can survive and truly compete

I had a truly inspiring conversation with Jake and Dave yesterday. We went to lunch then coffee.

The topic turned to Apple of course, the Apple tax, and what it means, and Dell.

We all agreed that we pay more, but where Dell and HP, and windowz peeps use the term in a negative, we see it as paying for a more awesome product, that is the sum of it’s parts not the parts. The whole spec comparison has been done to death. Apple gear isn’t RAM, HDD, glossy screen, etc. It’s the whole package, the OS, the industrial design, the hardware, and the overall feeling of owning something that retains value, isn’t plastic, and does what you want.

We got to talking about Dell (not sure why we focused on Dell, we probably all owned a few so they’re familiar)

We agreed, Dell (from now on, when I say “Dell” it means all PC makers) was competing with apple on product, not narrative. Slapping leather on a laptop, does not a MacBook Pro killer make. Adding replaceable colored skins, ditto.

What we all agreed is that the issue isn’t competing on hardware, it’s competing on the package. It’s a plastic crappy flimsy laptop running Windows. Sure Dell has tried to go Linux before, but the mistake they made was in choosing an off the shelf Linux distro. Maybe they wrote a few drivers for their hardware (I surely hope so) but that was it.

Wrong approach.

It’s amazing how many Apple product-killers fail to deliver because they fail to see the package, and try to kill the gear.

Mac’s run *nix. I know that, Dave and Jake know that. My mom doesn’t. Nicole doesn’t or doesn’t care. Hell I don’t care.

Where Apple went right, and Dell wrong, they took BSD, and made it user friendly. The average user never opens console, NEVER NEVER has to compile a driver from source, etc.

Throwing Ubuntu on a Dell laptop… isn’t the same as throwing OS X on a Mac laptop. Dell missed the mark, but not by much.

What should Dell do? abandon Windows, devote time and money to taking Ubuntu or something else, and making it theirs. Yes it’ll cost a metric buttload of money, and time. Dell will have to stand by their convictions, and help show why choosing their OS is a good idea for their customers. OS X had Classic mode, it shouldn’t be hard for Dell to offer a mode that will run Office. Apple didn’t offer iWork for a long time. Apple owners had to use Mac Office. M$ isn’t stupid, they’ll be mad, but then they’ll make an Office version for Dell OS. Or Dell writes one. Shit, Pages isn’t Word, but it’s got what most people need out of a word processor. The rest of Word is crazy one off fluff, that bloats the app and adds value to 1% or less of the install base. (guessing)

When I say Dell has to stand by their plan, that means after 6 months or a year, they can’t scrap the idea, run back to Microsoft, and make nice. It’s gonna take time. They need to spend that time doing 2 things.

  1. Sell the hell out of Dell OS. It’s an uphill battle, but NO ONE likes windows. Given an alternative that did what Windows does (not the shit no one cares about, the important things), wasn’t bloated, wasn’t full of crapware, etc. People would choose that alternative. BUT it must be stable, it must not need the user to know that the console exists, and it must be supported. It’ll need drivers, it’ll need the regular apps, it’ll need a way to run old windows shit. It’ll need a wizard to help convert people from windows to Dell OS. it’ll need the same experience Mac converts get.
  2. Improve the Dell OS. Show that it’s not a one off. within 6 months, release an update that’s more than a bug fix. Throw in a few new features. Add some Sizzle, but add a bite or two of steak too. Showing your fledgling user base that you’re committed will do wonders. They’ll know you’re in the game to win, and not “Testing the waters”, and they’ll become the cult of Dell.

That’s it. That’s the secret sauce Dell is not seeing. That’s the trees in the forest. It’s not a better laptop with better specs. it’s not leather or wood. It’s not Aluminum unibody, it’s the narrative, and the experience. Windows will forever taint both, and Dell will never compete.

So that’s it. That’s the secret, that so many get (Apple owners) that so few get (PC makers, M$, Etc) that would make PC makers competitive.

Apple didn’t get to $50bil over night, you can take your 8% share and bank on that, Apple is banking with Money. (Please leave the “iPod is supporting it” out. Yes the iPod is the huge money maker, and uh, hello the iPod follows the same model. Dell DJ? what? what’s that? exactly)

That was our coffee talk :) I might have missed a thing or two or glossed over but that was the gist.

By John Wilker

I'm a science fiction writer and conference organizer. In 2017 I published my first book, 'Space Rogues', a fun Sci-Fi adventure with a fun cast of characters. I'm also the co-founder of 360|Conferences, a conference and event logistics consulting company.

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