Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What if Dell Made Cars?

Our checks in the Taiwan PC food chain indicate order rates from the PC end market deteriorated sharply during the last part of July…

So begins a morning research update from one of Wall Street’s Finest, who in this case happens to be one of the few members of WSF who actually performs work above and beyond 1) saying “Great quarter, guys” on earnings calls, and 2) writing retrospective pieces on why they are either a) reiterating their opinion on a falling stock, with the words “Our thesis remains intact”; or b) giving up in disgust on a fallen stock whose thesis has become irreparably broken, with the phrase “We are throwing in the towel,” long after the towel should have been thrown.

But we digress.

We digress because it is fun to be able to write a full sentence once again.

The reason we can write full sentences once again is not, however, because severe carpel tunnel syndrome has caused a diminution in our ability to manipulate a keyboard, for example.

It is because our ability to manipulate a keyboard had until recently been diminished by what we call Severe Dell Keyboard Syndrome, in which the ability of certain keys on our keyboard to respond to things like finger pressure suddenly disappears, for no apparent reason, for days on end.

Yes, we generally write these virtual columns on a Dell notebook—of the type, apparently, whose order rates “deteriorated sharply during the last part of July,” at least according to the missive quoted above.

And while we have no idea if Dell is, in fact, reducing order rates (we’re told Dell’s order rates are actually “stable,” for what that’s worth), we think Severe Dell Keyboard Syndrome, along with a host of other mysterious glitches that never get talked about in glossy research reports, but which, in fact, are rather swiftly draining the so-called “Wintel” swamp of whatever water is left to drain, explains at least a part of the recent slowdown in notebook computer sales in general.

What exactly is Severe Dell Keyboard Syndrome (SDKS)? Well, for the last two days, this particular Dell notebook (two years old, tops) has refused to type an “S.”

Not to mention a “W” and a “2.”

Now, looking at the QWERTY keyboard, you can see that those three letters appear in a column, one on top of the other. Obviously, something went wrong with whatever goes on underneath the delicate keypad that is meant to trigger a response when one taps a key, expecting to see a letter appear on the screen. (And it's not dirt, or dust.)

This condition made it difficult to do things like, oh, type emails and respond to instant messages, not to mention sign onto Bloomberg and certain other critical but password-protected services that did not accept attempts to copy the missing letters from an existing Word document and drop them into the “User Name” or “Password” lines.

Yes, we actually were forced to do that, until, after shutting down and restarting a few times, the “S” key suddenly and mysteriously functioned correctly.

But this isn’t the first time SDKS has occurred: in fact, we began experiencing Mysterious Key Outages as far back as April, when of a sudden the “H,” “J,” “T” and “U” keys went out for two days.

Imagine if Dell made cars—better yet, don’t. The mind reels! Dashboard lights would go dark. Left blinkers would get stuck on, forever. Brakes would stop working, then steering wheels...t
he consequences would be staggering.

Dell-made cars would cause recalls that make the Toyota break problem look like a piker, except that the Dell problem would be real, not the imaginary hypersensitivity of a few jumpy consumers egged on by the trial lawyer lobby, as with Toyota.

Unfortunately for Dell and the other denizens of the Wintel swamp, however, internet users including yours truly now have a simple, reliable, easy-to-use non-Dell backup that we did not have in April: the iPad.

Of course, the iPad is not yet a full substitute for even this lousy Dell with the floating key-outage. Bloomberg, for example, hasn’t yet figured out how to accomplish on an iPad what Bloomberg can accomplish on even a lousy Dell.

But eventually it will get there, and these Dells and HPs and Acers will finally be relics of a time when a company with a monopoly—that would be Microsoft—could create such a rotten experience for users that even a monopoly would not stop users from fleeing when a simple, reliable, easy-to-use alternative appeared.

And “ evere Dell Keyboard yndrome” ill be a thing of the p st.

Jeff Matthe
I Am Not Making Thi Up

© 2010 NotMakingThisUp, LLC

The content contained in this blog represents only the opinions of Mr. Matthews, who also acts as an advisor: clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice, and should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. Also, this blog is not a solicitation of business: all inquiries will be ignored. The content herein is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.


Anonymous said...

Sure, Dell can make lousy $10 keyboards and Dell can also make $100 keyboards. Allow me to assume you are using one closer the lower end.

Dell is a company of the past. And it stayed there because lack of innovation not the durability of its goods. Which, for the right and low price, are as good as you can get.

Anonymous said...

The one thing to remember is that if Dell made cars, you could buy a perfectly good new car (albeit with real cheap knobs on the radio) for $9000. It'd drive fine on most streets, but the seat cover and knobs would be wobbly and occasionally fall off. That wouldn't keep enthusiast froms saving much money and replace the incidentals every so often.

On the other hand, if toyota made laptops, they'd be reliable, last a long time, have great fit and finish and start at $6000 MSRP, without the options.

Be careful what you wish for.

Anonymous said...

Har har har.

And if almighty Apple made cars they would cost $150,000 and the engine would shut off if you touched the wrong part of the steering wheel.

Anonymous said...

If Apple made cars, you would have to buy an adapter for the 12V socket, and it would cost you $250 on top of the $150K for the cheapest version of the car, limited to 75MPH, because they are using 5 years old hardware.

Tague said...

Well I own a Dell desktop at home. And unfortunately, lightening hit a tree and blew out the cable. Fried the modem, blew the router port and just the networking connection on the Dell. No problem, I just stop at Radioshack, yes radioshack, and pick up a networking pci card. I get home and take apart the machine. There are four expansion slots, but not one, not one PCI Slot!!!

Sean said...

Jeff, I thought you were better than this! This sort of Apple-PC argument takes place on 10 million pages all across the super web. If you think your post is anything different, just re-read it (or read the comments). Anyway your competitive advantage in writing, thought, and opinion definitely lies outside Wintel-bashing, which many millions have perfected already.

Anonymous said...

iirc, dell acknowledged recently that it was using substandard parts. don't blame the software for a hardware problem, or your own choice of dell as a supplier. perhaps a little research before your purchase would have helped.

Rich said...

It is really difficult to network Windows 7 computers, such that my purchase of a replacement computer caused a followup purchase of a second one to replace my wife's old XP machine. This phenomenon will drive sales of new systems.

And if you want less aggravation with Dell in desktop computers, try buying at Costco. The ZT systems boxes are fairly priced, and you can simply return the box to a Costco B&M store if you don't like it for 90 days from purchase. They also have as much as 2 years of tech support.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, thank you for this report, I *a* laughing tear* .

Anonymous said...

If you are looking for a replacement keyboard, the logitech illuminated performs very well.

Anonymous said...

from a ny times article today:

Dell has been accused of withholding evidence, including e-mails among its top executives, in a lawsuit over faulty computers it sold to businesses, according to a filing made Thursday.

The filing is the latest twist in a three-year-old lawsuit brought by A.I.T. that accuses Dell of selling at least 11.8 million faulty PCs over three years and then trying to hide problems with the computers from customers.

my comment- dell has been known for many years as offering terrible service once the sale was made. it was no surprise to learn they were using substandard components and coasting on a reputation for value that they haven't deserved for many years.

Anonymous said...

p.s. Dell had to take a $300 million charge related to the replacement of the bad computers.

Anonymous said...

Yeah that was a full sentence all righty. I'm happy to write an equivalent sentence given half a chance. It's eloquent enough and hangs together quite well. The 'hanging together' part is the important thing of course...thanks.

Anonymous said...

The ferocity with which the Times is covering this story (and all things Dell for that matter) is getting ridiculous. It's a total non-event. 100% of the stock's value is based on what will happen in the future. Get over it.

My "tin foil hat" theory is that the Times' resident Apple worshipper David Pogue still has his knickers in a bunch over Michael Dell's "shut it down" comments about Apple from 10 years ago, hence the unceasing journalistic slant on the company(hmm, reminds me of a blog I know).

Jeff Matthews said...

If Dell made good products there would be no story. They don't. Hence, there's a story.


Max said...

FYI Jeff, if you have keyboard troubles in the future you can use the on-screen keyboard program to type characters into username/password fields. You'll find it under Start->All Programs->Accessories->Accessibility.

This should be easier than using MS Word to copy/paste.

James said...

Dell has always killed Apple on price and quality.

After the iMac came out Dell destroyed it with their own all in one computers. Anyone seen an iMac recently?

After Apple's iPod Dell launched their Dell DJ which currently has over seventy percent market share for mp3 players.

Now the Dell Streak will force Apple to dump millions of unsold iPhones and iPads into landfills.

Just kidding.

سيارات said...

yea sure it depend on the price
10$ one is much def. from 150$ ;)

Kyoko Nitori said...

Dell have creates great idea for their machine. IMO, companies have their different specialty so I guess though Dell is a good company it would be hard for them to build a high speed performing vehicle just like Japanese cars company do.