Saturday, November 11, 2006

Dell is Missing an Opportunity

I haven't had to cleanup a new PC in a while. My Gateway Media Center has now been around long enough that I don't remember what crud had to be cleaned off it and as I've mentioned, the Samsung Q1 was marvelously free of crapware. Well, mom wanted a laptop to use with her sewing machine. Yes, they do that now. So we did a lot of looking and settled on a 15.4" Dell Inspiron laptop. It came yesterday and while I was setting it up and removing the crapware today, I realized that Dell is missing a differentiation option.

Craig Bruya mentioned in our discussions that all the PC makers except Dell need a 3 month lead time for their channel. Dell needs a lot less than that for software changes and Vista could have shipped as late as Nov 1. and still been in Dell's channel for all their holiday sales. Microsoft chose to treat all vendors equally and that's why Vista's not here for Christmas.

What Dell is missing is leveraging that direct connection to customer. When you setup a PC you have to pick your country, language, time zone and a bunch of other little settings. I completely understand that for a retail channel, you can't be sure where that unit will end up. But with Dell, the customer knows where the unit is going. The customer is ordering it. Why can't I set those items via the website and reduce the time it takes to get my PC up and running? Yes, you'll still have choices left to make but I bet you can eliminate at least 2 screens of questions giving Dell the leverage to say that you can setup your Dell faster than other manufacturer's PC's.

Also, IE7 and Windows Media 7 are both now released and out of beta but this unit didn't have either. I had to upgrade both IE and WM. Why isn't Dell leveraging that as well? "Buy a Dell and spend less time with updates because our PC's have the absolute latest software and patches possible."

We did get a Core2Duo processor which was simply unavailable yet at retail sites. But the PC has become a commodity. Dell is leveraging their channel to get better harware out faster than competitors. Here's two more ways for Dell to distinguish their offering and neither option involves lowering costs.

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