Dell's product lust: Are we there yet?

Dell's product lust: Are we there yet?

Summary: Dell CEO Michael Dell mentioned the product lust mantra last year and has come back to it repeatedly in conference calls and analyst meetings. Dell's message: The company needs to improve design and inspire a few 'gotta have that' moments from technology buyers.

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Dell CEO Michael Dell mentioned the product lust mantra last year and has come back to it repeatedly in conference calls and analyst meetings. Dell's message: The company needs to improve design and inspire a few 'gotta have that' moments from technology buyers. lust1.png How is Dell doing?

There's no coolness metric so these observations are totally subjective. But appears that Dell has definitely improved its product design capabilities and can generate some product lust. I'm presently window shopping for a laptop so I've been paying more attention to design and what company delivers the goods. I've been a Dell customer in the past and unlike some of you I haven't had a bad experience. My last three PCs have been Dells. I've also purchased a few Apples.

This time around my shopping is more wide open. I'm forcing myself to consider a wide range of options and checking out Dell, HP, Acer, Lenovo and others. I've been focusing on Windows laptops for my shopping experiment because I already know what I'll get from Apple. The choice is Apple or other PC makers. Besides the design equation is more muddled on the Windows laptop front so it's more interesting lust2.pngas an exercise.

Also see:  Gallery: Dell's designs on product lust

Let's face it: Most Windows laptops are the same with few exceptions. How important is design? For me it's probably a close second behind price. For others, design is everything. In fact, it's probably the only thing that will get you to move up the price scale all other things equal. A few thoughts about Dell's product lust standing against others as I work through my options:

Does color really matter? Am I really so superficial that I care whether a laptop is red, blue or espresso brown. Yeah. Perhaps it's because I'm tapping this post out on a boring black--yet very reliable ThinkPad--but I do look at Dell's color pallet and am drawn to it. Feel free to mock me--I mock myself. But Dell's color choices--which looked totally cliclust3.pnghe when it launched a year ago--matters a bit. In fact, I take back my initial skepticism. There's something to be said for a Flamingo Pink laptop--although I won't be ordering one. Oddly enough other vendors haven't gone color happy. HP sticks with a brushed metallic look on its latest line of notebooks. And last word on the color as design thing. You could do worse. Acer has laptop with a Ferrari logo--puhleeze.

Is Dell pushing the envelope? Dell is also going beyond mere colors (it is offering prints too) but is also playing with the form factors--targeting the Eee PC and MacBook Air. According to Engadget, Dell is playing with netbooks and other small devices. However, every other vendor is also targeting this netbook market, but this category is something that Dell would have brushed off a few years ago.

Perception matters. I haven't gotten into little things like port placement, webcams and other items (largely because it's all the same to me). What's left is perception in this comparison shopping is perception. Design matters, but so does vendor perception. Overall, I feel better about Dell. Financially, the company's prospects haven't improved all that much but things are looking up. In addition, Dell is more open to customers now and its blogging efforts and engagement has paid off. And Dell's anti-crapware comments a year ago have stuck with me. Dell was anti-crapware for business PCs but there's an easy opt-out for consumer PCs too. Crapware isn't a design element but not having it is a big win. And if you're pondering a Vista machine the last thing you need is crapware gumming up the works.

Bottom line: While Dell hasn't inspired an overwhelming bout of product lust it is comparable--if not ahead of--its rivals. Overall though the design chops for all the PC manufacturers could improve dramatically.

Topics: Software, Dell, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Operating Systems, Windows

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96 comments
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  • Dell is out of our picture.

    After 3 bad experiences with tech support talking to people that could not speak English, the owner of my company has declared, "no more Dell!"

    Dell can take their products and services and...
    bjbrock
    • No doubt that the owner of your company is clueless

      The owner of your company didn't like a foreigner on the phone... but he doesn't mind 90% of products in the building (including the clothes on his back probably) being manufactured at low cost to him and low (sub-American) standard of living to foreigners. Every major PC maker is suffering from low service standards, along with EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY IN THE COUNTRY. The people in most retail stores suck, restaurants, car dealerships, auto mechanics, telephone company, cable company, govenrment offices, etc. Where has customer service improved in the last ten years in this country? The only place I can think is the friggin' DMV--but not because of the people working there. If I want good customer service I go someplace self-service where I can help myself with some low-paid idiot getting in my way.
      royalef
      • The problem I see and keep asking myself is this..

        OK we get low priced stuff (some might say junk after all I
        remember when a pair of Levis could take an incredible
        beating year after year after year. Now not so much) Yet
        the jobs that allowed many of us to afford the Levis of old
        have gone away so we can't even afford the Levis of today
        (and they don't seem all that cheap too me considering
        what we have given up in quality and well income
        potential/generation) So just how do we afford even cheap
        when all these good jobs go away? What do we do here
        that generates income? What do we make? Is a country
        that is only some money exchange house and "SERVICE"
        based really a strong one? Can't other peoples become
        service based and can't other nations juggle money
        around? We seem to be building our house upon sand and
        as I understand it that is not considered a good
        foundation.

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
        • Great question, one problem

          I agree with most of your points--except the #1
          manufacturing economy in the world is--drumroll--the USA.
          Yup, still the good, old USA, in spite of what most of the
          "mainstream" (liberal, verging on socialist) press and TV folks
          would have you believe. Sure, expect huge China to pass us
          someday, likely sooner than we would like, but they aren't
          there yet.
          frabjous
          • Even bigger drum roll!...

            The dropping dollar is making going US look better every day. My brother's wife works at a circuit manufacturer here in the US, and their foreign AND US orders have shot up! She doesn't know if they will be able to handle the sudden explosion of business!
            JCitizen
          • Short term fix I think...

            Dropping dollar means increased business!?! So the
            answer for us it too become a third world nation? I would
            rather we have and KEEP a relatively high standard of living
            and make our bones on being the MOST productive and
            HIGHEST quality producter in the world. Productivity
            keeping prices down. Quality making our product more
            attractive. And on occasion when the economy shifts as it
            always does the declining dollar bringing in more buisness
            but no DEPENDING on that.

            Pagan jim
            James Quinn
        • Reminds me

          Reminds me of a video on Fora.tv regarding America - when there is a moved to service based economy', it marks the decline in the country. Great Britain tried to claim it could become the 'banking hub of the world', it declined. Declining empires are noticeable by how little they actually produce - of tangible products.
          Kaiwai
      • My question is...

        what are you doing to make a difference?

        Plus, the last HP service issue I had was handled great. Had no trouble understanding the tech support people. They got me the right part on the first try. Didn't even have to wait on hold but about 60 seconds.
        bjbrock
        • I've never had any trouble with them either...

          I just hope their driver support has improved; that was my primary reason for staying away from them in the past.
          JCitizen
    • I used to love Dells also

      Used them for years and recommended them to
      everyone because of their outstanding customer
      support. Then they went super cheap and I
      spent a week talking to a third party company
      in India trying to solve a problem. There was
      some difficulty understanding the people on the
      phone at times, but the most significant
      problem was that they made more money
      getting you off the phone as fast as possible.

      Decided to move the office computer to a Mac
      simply because they had highly rated US based
      customer service that was carried out by Apple
      employees that wanted to keep you a happy
      customer. In other words, just like Dell used to
      have.

      Design improvements in computers can be a
      good thing, but if the manufacturer doesn't
      properly take care of the customer it's like
      putting lipstick on a pig.
      Ken_z
      • isn't Accent problem with USA too for others ? (when they buy US services?)

        What happens when you buy a US product/services and you have to call US support ?

        People (if not outsourced) sitting in US don't understand a damn thing just as US customer getting support from outsourced support centre.

        So moral of the story is asking which people are you going to deal with in support situation BEFORE placing order ?
        Web Smart
    • Amen

      Speaking English aside (not a problem I ever had with them), there will never be another Dell product in this office either. We've always been pretty much HP driven here, but on the advice of a supergeek friend from the local university (of Illinois) we bought our CEO a top-end Dell notebook. He took the money we'd saved over buying him a comparable HP and got himself a Dell service package where they promised to come here to service it. (We've had a long talk, and he'll never do that again, whether it's Dell or somebody else.)

      Everything was OK and the boss was glowing over how much he'd "saved" until at about 6 months in, the optical drive went out. The Man himself phoned Dell support to have them come fix it, and that's when he stopped glowing.

      Tech support (reading from a script) instructed him to put the diagnostics disk in the optical drive and start the computer. When he tried to explain that it was the OD that wasn't working, the tech guy told him that he couldn't help him if he wasn't willing to cooperate. So the boss went through the required motions, and when it failed to boot from the OD, tech support said that without results from the diagnostics disk he couldn't send out an on-site repair tech.

      Numerous phone calls ensued, the boss being a CEO type, and believing that if he could just talk to the right person everything could be resolved. Boy did he find out! If there <i>is</i> a "right person" at Dell tech support, (s)he is behind an impenetrable firewall.

      He did eventually contact someone at Dell corporate who assured him that she was, indeed, the right person to talk to. She also told him that the support tech has been correct in his response. They can't send out a tech without knowing what's wrong.

      Hell of a way to run a company. <b>Never</b> again.!
      stubear
      • He should have gone to you guys!

        He might have found out the same diagnostic file is downloadable, so you don't have to run it from a floppy or CD!
        JCitizen
    • No More Dell??

      Personally I own 7 Dell laptops and not one, no not one has given me any problems what so ever. Luck of the draw I guess.
      Enorton429
  • Look at the context

    I don't believe that every person on this earth should be required to speak English. I find other languages fascinating (although I'm horrible at speaking them myself), but having the diversity of language, I feel, is a wonderful thing. That being said, tech support isn't a part of a culture, it's part of a business. Odds are that if I'm calling tech support, I have a problem of some kind. The tech who is assigned to assist me has to be able to properly communicate with me in order to get my problem solved. While I don't mind a slight accent, one that is so thick that it inhibits communication decreases productivity on both of our ends. It's not elitist or racist to feel that when a company hires technical support reps, one of the requirements should be that they must be able to be reasonably clear when talking the language that they will be using to communicate with the people who will be calling them. This is magnified when I pay extra for a premium product protection plan - when I pay for support, I expect to get it. That's not elitist on my part, nor am I at all attempting to be condescending to the people who answer tech support calls. On the contrary, I'm thankful that they're there; they've got a job that I don't have the patience for. I just think that when the price of solving problems is baked into the cost of my machine (or more if I purchase one of their premium support packages), that I should be able to make the call thinking, "In an hour from now, I should be able to get back to work", instead of, "I hope I will be able to communicate with the person I get".

    Joey
    voyager529
    • People have unreal expectation of support

      I perform support for everyone I have ever known. I'm the guy at every party, get-together, lunch, dinner, passing on the street, people who know me start asking computer questions.

      People can have almost insulting expectations of "tech support." Basically, users do whatever, pay no attention to what THEY are doing, make very little effort, avoid learning and the "tech support" person needs to make up the difference. I have people who shut their brain off and will call me asking how to do that again, cause they can remember from the last 3 times I showed them. The idea of writing instructions down and taking responsibility for yourself is simply absent for many whenever something "technological" is involved.

      People think that they can do whatever in the world they can think of to a computer and when it has problems, a PC manufacturer's tech support will... read their mind, search for what it is they actually did to their computer, and (since they personally have used every piece of hardware in the world, and eveyr software package and all the versions that you could have loaded on your machine) immediately deduce the magic keys to strike to make it all better.

      This is a ludicrous idea, but many users think this way. Imagining somewhat modifying their automobile while under warranty. They change out the body, they start installing custom engine parts, and then when something goes wrong they take it back to Honda and say it's under warranty you should fix it... support is built into the cost of the car. Really, that's what we are talking about.

      People need to understand that they are living through a revolution. All of society is changing and guess what? ...that includes how business works. There has never been a dynamic product in the market like the PC before and thinking it is like a TV or Blender, means you don't understand that you are drifting behind the revolution.
      royalef
      • You pay for what you get

        But when you PAY for support then the
        company should deliver support. I bought an
        extended warranty on the last car I bought, just
        like I did with the last Dell I bought. When the
        car needed to be taken care of under the
        extended warranty there was no problem as the
        dealer wanted to sell me another car sometime
        in the future. When I needed support from a
        third party company in India I got no help at all
        -just a week of misery.

        I guess the reality check is that if you buy the
        cheapest brands you had better know how to
        work under the hood yourself - or have a friend
        like you! If you pay for extended support,
        though, you have a fight to expect it - even in
        today's world.
        Ken_z
      • No one said tech support was easy.

        All the more reason Dell or anyone for that matter needs to do a better job.

        If you have such a problem providing tech support to people, and it sounds like you do, get another job. Customers paid money for the product, they are not technically savy and they need support. That is the definition of support. If you don't want to deal with these folks then don't sell them a product or service.

        Sound like your problem with tech support is YOU!
        bjbrock
  • And Americans can speak and write well?

    I find this stuff funny, because accents aside, I have just as much trouble communicating with home-grown Americans at work. Workers in the U.S. lack skills, ethics, focus, follow-through, written skills, and are unable to discern fact from vague rumor and guesses. A week does not go by that I have to stop someone from blatherring on about nonsense and force them to tell me what facts they know--which I must force them to determine fact from fiction. Critical thinking is absent in many businesses. Toyota pulled their automotive plants ouf of the southern U.S. because the illiteracy rate of american workers there was so poor they could not be trained to poerate a high tech assembly line. They had to put that in writing in press releases!! They even tried using colored buttons and symbols! The plants relocated to Canada. Toyota opened those plants so they could say made in U.S.A. But Americans have been raising their children for the last 20 years to be dumb. I see my friends, how trapped they feel in whatever job they fell into. I see kids being raised by their TVs because the parents can't be bothered to actually be inconveinenced by being a parent.

    But it's all the foreigners fault.

    Right....
    royalef
    • generalizations

      yes, Americans are dumb and fat and arrogant, every single one.

      Your rebuttal is as poor and generalized as the statements that all foreigners have thick accents and can't be understood.

      The point missed was that it is quite difficult to get some tech support personnel of non-English origin to even understand your issue, much less be able to communicate effectively so you can resolve it.

      When you have native speakers, of any tongue, it's much easier to communicate.
      coffeeshark