Dell, you can’t go home again

News out of Austin, Tex., has none other than Michael Dell taking over for Kevin Rollins as chief executive of the direct dealer.

Author Thomas Wolfe wrote “You can’t go home again”: but it looks like Michael Dell will be throwing caution to the wind and taking over for Rollins.

Rollins’ time at the top could not have been any worse for Dell Computer. First off he lost the No. 1 spot to HP. The company was embroiled in a nasty lawsuit over bait-and-switch tactics with more than a thousand customers in the California area. They used batteries that blew up. To be fair, so did the others, however the Dell blow-ups were more dramatic.

Customer service is at an all time low and that is saying something. Dell, along with other PC vendors, are struggling to make the same margins off PCs as in years past. This has led to less than remarkable financial reports. And did I mention the SEC investigation.

So Michael Dell has a lot to fix. I think too much to fix. When he first left in 2004 his reputation was that of a boy genius. But if he can’t turn the company around he will be labeled a failure. And sure he can still cry on his big pile of money and no one will feel sorry for him because of that.

But after making so much money the only thing left is legacy. Michael Dell has put that on the line by coming back.

Steve Jobs did it so why can’t Michael Dell? The reason why I do not think he or anyone else can turn Dell around is this. Apple innovates. You may call them crazy or quirky, but they consistently develop state of the art products. Dell, as I have stated in the past, makes stickers. They are a marketing company. Maybe the Alienware fellows can help Dell, but then again they are a small group.

And with utility computing on the rise, the days when customers insisted on only the top tier vendor brands may be coming to an end.

The direct model has had its time in the sun. It is time for a new, bold direction for the company. Can Dell change its stripes? Will they have the nerve to drop direct sales?

One quick hit before I go: Jeff Willis is joining Mississauga, Ont.-based value-added distributor Stampede. Willis will hold the newly created position of vice-president, product management and operations. Willis was formerly with the technology divisions of United Stationers and Azerty.

Willis has been a past president of the board of directors of Computers for Children, Inc., a technology products-related non-profit founded in 1997.
Posted by Paolo Del Nibletto, 2/01/07, 10:30AM, [email protected]

The death of the floppy disk

Well, it was inevitable. The floppy disk is dead. American retailer PC World has had enough and will stop selling the 1.44Mb 3.5-inch floppy disk once its inventory runs dry.

I have fond memories of the floppy disk. I remember vividly when IBM switched over permanently to it with its PS/2 PC. That spelled the death of the 5.25-inch floppy.

The 3.5-inch floppy drive invented the sneaker net, which, while being effective, vendors and solution provider tried their best to get rid of it at customer’s sites.

The floppy is also very aerodynamic. You can toss it to someone across the room using traditional Frisbee throwing methods.

And it could hold a lot of stuff. I remember once shoving around 600 word documents into a disk and still had room left over.

But today the floppy is not cool anymore. And to last in this industry you must be cool. The USB key is cool. You can put it in your shirt pocket, clip it to your belt or wear it around your neck as jewelry. Seagate’s breakthrough USB key, I think, was a watershed moment for the computer industry. The product looked like a yo-yo and has an amazing 4Gb of capacity.

With the floppy basically dead the CD does not have too much time left. With software vendors moving to subscription based online services and software-as-a-service or on-demand utility computing there is no more need for the CD or for that matter the package or crate.

The CD is basically on the doomsday clock and it’s two minutes to midnight.

A lot of quick hits today before I go. Brian Sharwood, industry analyst for the Seaboard Group has left the company to pursue an opportunity with a company I have never heard of called Mactel. Sharwood is one of the best analysts out there. I will miss him at industry functions, junkets and golf tournaments. Brian, I wish you all the best.

Steve Johns the head of partner development at Microsoft Canada is going back to Australia. Johns, who is Canadian, lived and worked at Microsoft Australia before being promoted to Microsoft Canada last year.

Donna Troy, channel czarina at SAP, is leaving the company after some minor restructuring. Terrance Scerri will replace her. I do not know Scerri, but you have to wonder why Jeff Watts was not given this opportunity after the fantastic job he has done building the channel for SAP in Canada.

And finally, another crazy bit of news passed my desk from Apple. It looks like Apple will be selling 802.11n software for $1.99. The price reminds of Rip Taylor’s $1.98 Beauty Contest TV program in the 80s.
Posted by Paolo Del Nibletto, 1/31/07, 10:30PM, [email protected]

A very, very, very ice house

Microsoft had a very creative way of showcasing how consumers might use Vista, which is available today at BestBuy, Future Shop, Staples plus several hundred other retailers across the country. It was minus four in the icehouse. The temperature gauge was sitting on top of an ice toilet.

The 18,000 sq. ft. condo style house was furnished with two bedrooms, media room, office, kitchen, living area and physical and digital security.

According to one analyst at the event, the icehouse costs $5 million. About $1,000 was for the ice and the rest for the land (prime downtown Toronto across from the Eaton Centre). A lot of people were commenting that the icehouse was bigger than their own condos.

In actuality, the icehouse is made up of 270,000 lbs of ice, 900 x 300 lbs crystal clear ice blocks. The ice is the equivalent of 1,507,072 teaspoons of water or 16,875 ice cubes.

It took 500 man-hours to build and about 300 man-hours to set up. The technology inside the icehouse is also quite remarkable. There are, for example, 510 keyboard keys and approximately 3,200 MB of memory available.

Every room except for the bathroom and the closet had some kind of technology.

My favourite area was the kitchen, which had a laptop, tablet and refrigerator with built in TV. Now the fridge was not running Vista, but I am sure the fine folks at LG Electronics can make it happen. If not them then some crafty reseller somewhere can build it and make some impressive margins on it.

You can call this a publicity stunt. The thought did cross my mind, but when you look pass the clear ice walls you can see that this digital lifestyle is becoming a reality a lot sooner than expected.

One quick hit before I go. PR practitioner David Morelli submitted his two cents on yesterday’s embargo blog:

The example you gave justified the way you handled it: you can’t embargo something after the fact. That’s like un-announcing something. That’s poor or unprofessional coordination on the part of the vendor. However, embargoes do have their place.

I’d argue they are actually for the media’s benefit as much as the vendor. Two reasons: one, they give you time to research and find other information and sources to build a more complete story for your readers. If vendors give the information without embargo, you are under pressure to produce a story as quickly as possible, maybe without all the additional comment, opposing view or historical perspective your readers would benefit

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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