Perot Systems Is Not A Cool Computer - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
9/25/2009
08:27 AM
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Perot Systems Is Not A Cool Computer

Steve Jobs and Michael Dell both abdicated from the big companies they'd founded, watched the businesses stumble, and then returned to their old jobs. It's at that point that the similarities between the two stories ends.

Steve Jobs and Michael Dell both abdicated from the big companies they'd founded, watched the businesses stumble, and then returned to their old jobs. It's at that point that the similarities between the two stories ends.Jobs rekindled the Apple spirit, launching the iMac and a string of subsequent technology hardware and services innovations that you know as well as I do. Apple's catchy branding is a nice outcome, but the guts of the company's business is, quite simply, to make cool computers, and it has stayed true to this focus while redefining, repurposing, and reaping the rewards of changing the "where" and "how" computers are used.

Dell gave the world hardware products nobody wanted, knocked-off some of the most superficial aspects of Apple's innovation (colored laptop covers, anyone?), and bought, and did nothing with, gamer PC maker Alienware...while HP and others built bricks-and-mortar businesses that ate the company's lunch. Now, its big, strategic move is to buy a provider of back-office services for healthcare companies.

Dell might just as well have bought a chain of sandwich shops for all the good it'll do for its PC business.

I'm surprised that there hasn't been more commentary on the inanity of the move. For every thoughtful mention of how it helps Dell compete with IBM or do something in a "space" somewhere, there should be hard questions asked about what the action has to do with selling computers in geophysical reality. From a consumer brand perspective, it does nothing.

It's too bad, too. I used to own Dells (and an Alienware box that I loved). Like Jobs, Michael Dell had a Big Idea, and his efficient/direct-to-consumer model was as revolutionary as it was profitable. There was no reason why any Dell customers should ever have left the fold, apart from the fact that the company did everything it could to encourage them to do so: no customer upgrade/trade-in plans, no value-add services to owners, outsourced customer service, and lots of useless product complexity and distractions.

For sure, beige boxes could never be cool, but that wasn't the strategic opportunity: Dell's customer relationships could have been better, faster, easier, happier, and more profitable for both its business, and for its users. That would have been really cool.

Now it's in the healthcare services business, which isn't cool at all.

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.

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