Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dell Watching

We use a lot of Dell products at Pano Cap. We've standardized on PowerEdge rack servers in the data centre and Latitude and Inspiron notebooks for those needing mobility.

Over the years, I've been pleased with the durability, reliability, and performance of our computer systems. The servers, especially, have performed well and needed little in the way of replacement drives or power supplies.

The notebook and desktop computers (again, most of which are Dell products) have not been as stellar performers as our servers, but they still provide good value and have been relatively maintenance free. It's true that we have sometimes been irritated and frustrated with the purchasing process, but now that we entrust most of our hardware purchases to a single supplier, the aggravation of dealing directly with different arms of Dell financial services has disappeared. So too have maintenance issues by simply assigning all of that to our supplier.

But things have not gone well for Dell in the recent past. Their customer service reputation has taken a beating, especially among bloggers quite willing to point out the deficiencies of technical support. Market share has been slipping, with both HP and Acer making inroads. Hewlett Packard has the largest share of the market, Dell second, with Acer and Lenovo in a virtual tie for third place. In the United States, Apple has grown faster than any other PC maker.

So it may not be too surprising to see Dell making changes. As of 31-Jan-2007, Michael Dell resumed the CEO role; on 24-April-2007, Dell began offering solid state drives in the Latitude D420 and D620 notebooks; on 27-April-2007, a leaked memo from CEO Michael Dell suggested that the long-time direct selling mantra of Dell might be augmented by channel sales ("The Direct Model has been a revolution, but is not a religion"); and finally, on 1-May-2007, Dell announced that Canonical had been chosen as its partner to provide some desktops and notebooks pre-loaded with Ubuntu ("Linux for Human Beings").

Whether these moves will have any direct impact on us directly or not remains to be seen, although one suggestion of offering customers an option of either Vista or Windows XP would be welcome (a recent purchase of a notebook was only available in Vista); an even better option would be a dual-boot option with both Windows XP Pro and Windows Vista.