Dell Gets Tough - InformationWeek

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1/18/2007
01:43 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Dell Gets Tough

Mainstream PC maker Dell has not been known for its overly durable products. With competitors offering "ruggedized" hardware that's more durable, however, Dell decided to get its rough-and-tumble game on.

Mainstream PC maker Dell has not been known for its overly durable products. With competitors offering "ruggedized" hardware that's more durable, however, Dell decided to get its rough-and-tumble game on.Dell couldn't ignore it any longer. With companies like Panasonic advertising its ToughBook line-up during NFL games, anyone interested in a strong, durable, PC that can handle the hard knocks of life out in the field (i.e., harsh weather, riding shotgun in trucks all day, etc.), had to turn to one of several rugged PC makers for that type of gear.

Just ask your local police department. Its probably running Panasonics, and has for over a decade. Being the world's largest PC maker, that must have pissed Dell off. Losing sales to those guys? "C'mon," they must have thought. "We're from Texas. We can't let some lame NJ-based company whip us at our own game!"

The problem for Dell was, the regular laptops (Dell, HP, Apple, Lenovo) are the geeks of the laptop world, boasting the latest and greatest chipsets, processors, memory and so on. Are these formidable business and media machines? Sure. They may get the job done for the average office punk who deals in spreadsheets and presentations, but they are no match for the bullies of the laptop world. They are a different breed altogether.

Real computers, like real men, work in the real world. That means outside, on utility poles, next to whirring AC units, in the dank and wet sewer systems, where their users need raw computing power in environments where dainty geek PCs were not meant to go.

Think Jack Palance or Clint Eastwood. You think either of those guys would use a Dell? Think again. (Don't think too hard, though, because you might quickly realize that neither of them has used a computer in their lives.)

Ruggedized hardware may not have the fastest and most up-to-date chips, but they'll pound the snot out of their wimpy geek laptop co-workers. And because this type of rugged, I-can-eat-your-workload-in-the-rain type of computer is making bigger strides into the enterprise, Dell felt it was necessary to develop it's own breed of brute.

So Dell put on its game face, smeared on the black paint, and built its own semi-rugged laptop, complete with helmet and shoulder pads (figuratively speaking, of course). You can read about the PC itself here.

The real question is, can Dell make up for lost time? Its competitors have been in this market for a long time and have the technology down. They know now to beat up the machines in the lab so they don't fail in the field. Will Dell's semi-rugged laptop hold its own against time-tested veterans like that? As they say, time will only tell.

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