What The Dell Is Wrong In Round Rock?

Are any other Dell shareholders wondering what’s going on at Dell headquarters in Round Rock, Texas?

It was all the way back in November that Michael Dell said he wanted to create “product lust” the way Apple does. So far, the only things remotely lusty on Dell.com are the colors available on new PC models — and I can think of several products better suited than computers to creating lust from color choices.

Apple’s utter dominance of electronic product lust requires no further comment. But even non-hardware companies are running circles around Dell. Have you taken a gander at Amazon.com’s Kindle? It’s amazing and it was conceived and created by an online store. Why was Amazon.com able to flank Dell on this one?

There’s no Dell cell phone, no Dell MP3 player, no Dell brand-new-category anything. There are just the same old PCs they’ve always made, presented on a website that doesn’t have anything except price to differentiate it from other PC box websites. To Dell’s credit, its machines are still price competitive.

Compare this long, long, long wait with nothing even mildly titillating announced by Dell with the eyeblink speed with which Howard Schultz is getting Starbucks back on its feet. If you listened in on the conference call, then you know what I mean when I say that it was hard to keep up with all the innovations on the way, and they just make drinks, for crying out loud! That a drink maker has found more ways to innovate in the last 14 weeks than an electronics device maker has found in the past two years is a disgrace — to the electronics maker.

At this point, people usually raise a hand and ask what ideas I have for Dell. Rather than just complain, can I offer a suggestion?

Sure: get beyond the box.

Dell was always a PC box maker, and that was once a fantastic business because it figured a way to do it cheaper than others. That advantage is gone now because all major computer makers get their supplies from the same channels, everybody can deliver direct, and now Dell sells in stores anyway.

What’s even worse, though, is that the rise of the internet has made which computer we use less important. It doesn’t really matter what people buy, certainly among all the PC makers but not even between an Apple and a PC anymore. As long as they can get online, users don’t care what’s in front of their face because nearly everything is happening online.

Side note: That’s why Apple has such a bright future — if people now have the freedom to choose anything, why not go with the best?

Dell is trying to make its models stand out, but so far it has only marginal improvements to list. For example, the aforementioned color choices and a clear side panel on upcoming floor towers. Even that description reveals the problem. Floor tower? Come on. Look at a floor tower and then look at an iMac and if your head’s not shaking then you’re officially the most boring person at the party.

Even over at Dell IdeaStorm, you won’t find much sign of lust on the way. You know what that fun-loving crowd has come up with on the innovation front? Keeping Windows XP an option instead of forcing people into the Tenth Circle of Hell known as Vista (be still my beating heart), changing packaging to be more environmentally friendly (how about focusing on what’s inside the package to be more future friendly?), and making the Vostro laptop smaller (hot and bothered to the core…until I realized it’s nowhere near as thin and light as a MacBook Air).

Ah, Dell. Head to a mountaintop with a team of future scenario builders in tow and really think about what could make people crave something from you again.

It’s not a box, not even a clear one. It’s a way to do the things we’ve always done in ways that excite us and make us say “ooh!” and want to own the device that makes it possible. It’s new capabilities that we never even thought about, until you invented them, made them beautiful, and proved to us that we can’t live without them.

As is, your idea of lust is about as appealing to me as an ice bath with Sister Mary Elephant.

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