I’ve always kind of had a soft spot in my heart for Dell. I went to the University of Texas at Austin at the same time Michael Dell was building PC’s in his dorm room. We used the ‘PC’s Limited’ PC’s at work where we needed ‘turbo’ machines–the souped up 286’s with an actual button on it called Turbo Mode that helped us chew threw text indexers and dBase reports (God I’m old). They were the 80’s version of what today would be called an enthusiast’s PC. They were successful and like all good tech companies went public. They slowed down, got safe, and started turning in their quarterly homework assignments to the financial world. Wall Street has a great way of destroying innovators in favor of marginal increases in growth over time.
Dell became the Volvo of the PC industry. Boxy, safe, mid to high pricing, reliable, but dull. They went public, became a huge PC vendor, ranking at the tops of the corporate charts. Still great, but always boring. Their servers were rock solid. Their technology sound and always on the short list for corporate purchases. But decidedly dull. Soulless. They were the epitome of the corporate beige box. Even their flirting with the gaming world with things like Alienware somehow sucked the life out of these designs.
And then something wonderful happened. Dell bought it’s soul back from Wall Street. They went private. It took control away from the quarter to quarter financial drones and got back in the tech business.
By going private and basically being accountable to no one but themselves and their customers, a strange thing happened. They became accountable to themselves and their customers. Their designs improved. Their service improved–I’ve had a couple of times recently to work with them and am constantly impressed. They put out innovative, new, tiny OptiPlex boxes with i5’s in them (it’s always fun telling someone, “no really, the whole computer is in there!”). They’ve made the successful Venue tablet lines (even that Android thing looks interesting and I don’t like Android). And the current darling of the tech world, the impressive XPS 13. It’s actually a cutting edge piece of beautiful technology. I’ve even noticed lately that Dell machines come with minimal, and actually useful preinstalled software (unlike Lenovo). Dell is reclaiming it’s role as a leader, innovator, and competitor.
All they had to do is get rid of the bloodsuckers from Wall Street. It makes you wonder what other companies could do if freed from the destructive force of the financial overlords. But right now, Dell is something to watch.