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Dell Rethinking the Direct-Sales Market

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the breaking-with-tradition dept.

Businesses 278

Dell has always sold directly to consumers via their web site and phone operations; it's a basic element of their business. Chairman and chief executive Michael Dell is now conceding that the company may need to rethink basic practices by considering alternative methods of selling their products. While initially no specifics are given, the thought seems to be than eventually the company will begin working with a retail chain. "Dell's direct model came under pressure as the market for PCs shifted to notebooks from desktops last year. It is harder to custom configure notebook computers, so they had to be manufactured in advance, which lost Dell some of its cost advantage. In addition, consumers were showing a preference for touching and feeling a notebook PC before buying it."

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That was quick... (1, Funny)

mshurpik (198339) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922229)

TFA: >Michael Dell is now conceding that the company may need to....begin working with a retail chain.

Hah! I said this last week when we were talking about HP beating them in sales.

Re:That was quick... (5, Funny)

kartan (906030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922289)

someone give this guy a cookie.

Re:That was quick... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922313)

Hah! I said this last week when we were talking about HP beating them in sales.
Nice... I'm sure Dell first considered doing this last week.
 

Re:That was quick... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922325)

wow! maybe you should be a ceo? your insight fucking rocks.
 
fucking bitch.

Re:That was quick... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922367)

lolol

dude if i had enough energy id be 'you' on every article

and the security keyword thingy for this one was 'provoke' :D

preference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922231)

for touching and feeling.

I have nothing more to add.

Re:preference (1)

JensenDied (1009293) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922267)

Sounds like the DS:

When they say "touching is good" they don't
mean to take it into your bathroom and whack it to Mario.

Re:preference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922569)

"preference for touching and feeling"

hmm, seems to me that only zombies touch and don't feel anything... ?

Dell direct sales (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922235)

Dell has always sold directly to consumers via their web site and phone operations;

No they haven't. Dell got their start by selling through smaller computer chain stores before their direct phone/catalog sales and the invention of the WWW.

Re:Dell direct sales (2, Informative)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922773)

That could not be more wrong. Dell has always sold direct. It dabbled in retail on a few occasions but not until it was well established as the leading direct sales company.

Re:Dell direct sales (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922783)

They also sell machines through kiosks in malls. It's nice to be able to get a feel for what you're buying.

Re:Dell direct sales (1)

b17bmbr (608864) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922887)

I have one in my mall. I think the thing is that they let you tough and feel and play (guess they gotta clean the keyboards) but you order it there and dell ships it to you. so it seems to be a halfway choice. I don't think you walk out that day with a laptop. of course, I asked the guy about getting it preinstalled with linux. um, nevermind...

Two Words, or is it one word? (2, Insightful)

xactuary (746078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922241)

CostCo. I used to find Dell PCs in CostCo, but not for a while now. Dell should have a permanent pile of lower-end boxen on display whenever I walk into the place. Power users will always need to interact with the sales process I suppose.

Google is your friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922641)

http://www.google.com/search?q=CostCo [google.com]

It answers your question. It tells you which letter is/isn't uppercase. Google is your friend.

Re:Two Words, or is it one word? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922647)

lower-end boxen

Why are you using the German plural of the word "box", rather than the English plural? The rest of your post is in English.

Re:Two Words, or is it one word? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922889)

boxen sounds 1337 I guess. It's one of those online terms that popped up a few years back and caught on in hacker-wannabe circles.

Enclosures matter in notebooks... (5, Insightful)

tomocoo (699236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922269)

Let's not forget the fact that while Dell laptops are oftentimes nice machines, their enclosures are hideous, clunky pieces of plastic that can't hold a candle to Thinkpads or Macbooks.

Yeah, they're butt ugly. (4, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922387)

Yeah, I find it really odd that while the rest of the world seemingly moved on, Dell still makes laptops that are vaguely reminiscent of plumbing fixtures.

Squarish corners, clean, straight lines, and monotone color schemes are in; Dell's laptops all cheap and plasticky compared to Apple's or IBM/Lenovo's. In particular, the two-tone color scheme they seem to like just emphasizes the seams in the case, rather than minimizing them like a single color (white, black, silver -- doesn't really matter) would. And round corners say 'toy' while square ones say 'tool,' which I think is something they ought to be going for.

What's particularly odd is that although (at least in the black color), the better IBM/Lenovo laptops really haven't changed too much in external appearance over the years -- their styling is pretty consistent -- Dell's somehow end up looking more "dated," even though they've presumably been designed more recently.

Re:Yeah, they're butt ugly. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922581)

Looks to me like Macbooks [apple.com] have rounded corners too. In fact, I think the thinkpads are the only ones with the really square edges. Although I can't really pinpoint the problem, I have to say that I find Dell notebooks to be really ugly, especially compared to the most appealing Apple notebooks.

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

Meadowhog (1094993) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922395)

You're exactly right on that. Macbooks are a little too slick for me (I personally like how professional most of the Thinkpads look) but they're both miles ahead of the cheap plastic I've seen on Dells. With the amount of money a laptop costs and the amount of time you're going to be spending using it, it's definitely worth spending that little bit extra for a nice-looking machine that you can take some pride in.
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Re:Enclosures matter to some... (3, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922655)

Personally, I could hardly care less what it looks like.

What matters is: is it easy to use? Can I use the mouse with my thumbs? Is the screen readable in sunlight? Is the 'enter' key big enough that I can't miss it? Does it have a caps lock light so that I don't shout inadvertently? Does it have a fast processor? And lots of RAM? Oh, and does it have Linux?
Give me all of that for a reasonable price and it can look like a dog turd for all I care.

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

DrDitto (962751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922397)

Agree. The LCD hinges on my $1500 Dell notebook busted in about 18 months...the metal literally sheared off. They are replaced, but 6 months later, they are starting to make creaking noises again. What am I supposed to do? Squirt some oil in there?!

I've been trying out a Macbook for the past week and am impressed with the build quality and some of the little details. For example, why doesn't my Dell have 2-finger trackpad scrolling? That feature is great! And why does it take my Dell notebook 2-3x longer to re-establish the 802.11 connection? In fact the Macbook even keeps my ssh sessions alive when I close the lid! Some of these things might have more to do with the OS than the build...I wouldn't mine buying a Macbook and then installing Windows Vista if I could (sorry, OS-X is really really slick, but in some ways I prefer Windows and I have some Windows-only apps).

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922485)

You say you're using Windows. Why not just set the power option to do nothing when you close the lid? Or do you want it to sleep AND keep the ssh session open? If so you should know that the Mac doesn't exactly sleep like a normal PC might; it apparently keeps the CPU running to some degree and this comes at the cost of using the battery, and losing your session entirely, if you're unplugged.

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

DrDitto (962751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922813)

Well the Macbook also gets more battery life too. So maybe Mac OSX is able to keep the CPU running while "sleeping" because it is so good at descheduling background tasks that HW power management keeps the impact on battery life to a minimum? I don't know...just speculating.

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922587)

Some of these things might have more to do with the OS than the build...I wouldn't mine buying a Macbook and then installing Windows Vista if I could (sorry, OS-X is really really slick, but in some ways I prefer Windows and I have some Windows-only apps).


I'll assume that you know you can do exactly [apple.com] that [parallels.com] so what's stopping you?

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

Meadowhog (1094993) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922649)

I can't speak for him, but it's a pain in the ass using two OSes at once instead of keeping everything in one. Convenience matters.
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Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (4, Informative)

garbletext (669861) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922689)

why doesn't my Dell have 2-finger trackpad scrolling?
Apple has a patent (http://www.macobserver.com/article/2006/10/09.2.s html/ [macobserver.com] ) on that, and would likely enforce it. Actually, some new synaptics touchpads support the feature in hw, although the functionality isn't there in the windows drivers; check out the X11 synaptics option "TwoFingerScroll".

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

ACalcutt (937737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922423)

The college I work for promotes dell latitude laptops. I agree that the enclosures weren't that good. The casing on our d600s d610s seem a little on the ugly side. They also seemed to dent easily. With this year's models (laptops and desktops) that they are trying to fix this. My new d620 is extremely solid compared to my old d600. I also like how they look. They're mostly black instead of the ugly grey they had. I was really happy with my d600...but it always was in good condition cause of my dell certification :-). The new optiplex computers also seem to be a lot better in quality. I'm glad to see them gettings some AMDs in their line.

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922459)

Latitudes suck.

Inspirons, on the other hand--I have an Inspiron E1505, and I actually like the two-tone case. Unlike some other laptops, the plastic is the color through and through; I type on this thing a LOT and the plastic's wearing down (a touch slower than my last laptop, a Thinkpad), but it hasn't lost its color.

I have noticed intermittent trouble with the wireless, but it only happens on Windows (doesn't on Linux), so I assume that it's just driver trouble. My only real beef with the laptop is that it doesn't have a nipplemouse, but since that's more or less an IBM thing I can't fault them heavily on it.

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922853)

If the 1505 has the same case as my 1501, I like it too. The white and silver finish reminds me of the sets in late 70s/early 80s SF movies.

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922891)

You're praising the Inspirons over the Latitudes? Unless something has changed in the 4 years since I bought my Inspiron, I can't imagine how you could say that... my Inspiron was a clunky piece of crap.. the Latitudes aren't much better, but they look more professional at least. Oh, and some Latitudes have (or at least did have) the mouse nub.

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

marcosmota (691636) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922461)

I agree that the Thinkpads are the best (for me) looking machines out there. Even newer models feel good, but the all-time best model was the Thinkpad 600E. It's clunky by new standards, but it feels really good to type on it. The Macbooks just don't have the same keyboard feel of the IBMs and for $1,200.00+, I expect more. Dells have always seemed like cheap plastic with poor presentation of the machine inside. M

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922595)

when function is the priority, you get an ugly business workstation. when form is the priority you get a nice conversation piece that takes over 20 minutes to copy a 17 meg file

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (3, Interesting)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922665)

Let's not forget the fact that while Dell laptops are oftentimes nice machines, their enclosures are hideous, clunky pieces of plastic that can't hold a candle to Thinkpads or Macbooks.

I have never seen a Dell machine that has made me think 'I have to have one of those'. I suspect that the laptops are designed to sell in bulk to corporate customers rather than stand on their own merits.

I certainly would not buy a laptop from a company with the customer service reputation Dell has acquired of late.

Laptops I have seen that I liked are the upmarket Apple models and the Thinkpad X60. For some reason nobody really seems to have gone after the PC market with design cues as strong as Apple's. Sony have come close at times but my experience is that their stuff is fragile.

In the desktop area everyone I know buys Dell because they are the cheapest brand offering an acceptable level of reliability. I bought my son a machine for $500 including the flat panel monitor. Thats much cheaper than the previous one I built for him myself.

Main problem with the Dell's is that they are horribly noisy. This is not something that reviewers think worth a mention for some reason. And when you do find comments they can be useless. If you look at any of the bulletin boards for reviews of high end machines there is always a post from some poor slob who claims to have invested his college fund in an Alienware or the like which came in the wrong shade of green and they took two years to fix it attached to the very latest model.

The PC market seems to be dominated by the DIY aesthetic. Real men don't buy ready made machines. They buy the parts and fit them together. Time is a much more scarce resource for me than money and I don't want a machine that looks like a kit. Thats probably why people by the Voodoo elemental, they just get fed up having to explain to people that they don't need to save $500 building the machine themselves from parts so they drop $3500 having a $7000 machine gold plated. I bought the baseline BAM model and told the wife how much I saved by not going for the 'gold plated' edition, she still thinks it was a figure of speech. Good thing she doesn't read either Slashdot or the Amex bill.

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922723)

I'd prefer Dell over any of the Compaq laptops I've seen...

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922901)

i've never understood why dell does this. they've had other models with very nice cases (like the latitude c400 that i'm typing on now) that weren't continued for some reason.

Re:Enclosures matter in notebooks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922949)

Not just clunky, but dangerous. On the last batch of Dell laptops we bought some of the mold lines are sharp. I've seen several pairs of pants, especially wool suit pants, ruined by them. Pissing off suits with crappy plastic is a very fast way to lose customers in large chunks. The CEO of the company just switched to a MacBook because he was tired of ruining pants with the Dell garbage. Unfortunately the rest of us have to use Microsoft's .Net crap so we can't move to Apple hardware so the developers here are all stuck with ruined pants and cuts on our legs from when we try to use the laptop as a laptop.

seems worse (4, Insightful)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922273)

How do you stock up to date hardware in brick and mortar stores? I never buy from physical stores because everything is lagging 3 months behind in price and technology.

Re:seems worse (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922291)

There should at least be demo units, so you can get a feel for the keyboard and track pad; those features often vary by manufacturer, and they are vital to a good user experience.

I hate-hate-hate the Toshiba inverted upside down "L" enter key. It's impossible to work with. So, I stay away from *all* Toshiba laptops online, because I don't have the tactile in-person guarantee that I will find their keyboard acceptable.

Re:seems worse (2, Informative)

Propaganda13 (312548) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922349)

Dell does have kiosks in malls to show some of their product already.

The inverted-L enter/return key. (3, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922399)

I hate-hate-hate the Toshiba inverted upside down "L" enter key. It's impossible to work with. So, I stay away from *all* Toshiba laptops online, because I don't have the tactile in-person guarantee that I will find their keyboard acceptable.

I'm pretty sure that's not just a Toshiba thing, or at least they didn't really invent it. I used to have a Panasonic electric typewriter (one of the very late, high-speed, daisy-wheel ones) that had the same thing. I was never clear on what its purpose was, or if it was a Japanese thing or a legacy of some older typewriter keyboard. (Oddly enough, though, modern Panasonic computers such as the Toughbooks don't have it.)

Re:The inverted-L enter/return key. (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922465)

Wyse supplied us some keyboards with that format for our 5150 and S50 units ... we sent them back. Our users hated them.

One or two made it out "into the wild", though, and those particular users never complained. So I guess people can get used to it. But man ... programming on that would be a pain in the butt. Especially with the short shift key on the other side.

Re:The inverted-L enter/return key. (1)

alexhard (778254) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922793)

what? you don't have the inverted L in the US? Here in Europe it's rare to see one with a small enter, and I find them extremely uncomfortable (the small enters that is)..

Re:seems worse (4, Insightful)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922527)

How do you stock up to date hardware in brick and mortar stores? I never buy from physical stores because everything is lagging 3 months behind in price and technology.
Thus putting you somewhere near the 99th percentile of the general pool of home PC purchasers. For everyone else, they won't even notice the difference. That's one reason why HP has been kicking Dell's ass in the home pc market recently.

Re:seems worse (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922565)

I actually ran into this in another product. I was looking at new USB thumb drives on Newegg. roughly $40 for a 4 gig, $80 for 8 gig and $150 for a 16 gig drives.

while out shopping I stopped in at CompUSA. 4 gig was on sale at $60, and the 8 gig was on sale for $110.

Gateway has already tried the direct box order from our shiny store routine, and it killed them. Then again i wouldn't cry if dell died out too.making 1/2 a percent profit on hardware alone will kill anyone. Yep That's right Dell makes 1/2 of a percent on there machine while MSFT makes 300-400% percent on XP, less on vista but then again it is new.

And that's why a monopoly is bad.

It doesn't much matter... (1)

Marnhinn (310256) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922805)

Most people that buy a Dell (your average consumer), are not aware that the hardware lags three to four months behind. They simply want a machine that can run latest game x or be used for college course y or whatnot.

They aren't going to know the difference unless it is something major. Dell knows this. They also know that consumers who want the latest items and prices are usually smart enough to look online. By working with retailers they will reach a larger consumer market.

Wonder why they haven't done this sooner... (1, Interesting)

Darundal (891860) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922285)

...considering how your average Dell customer is probably not the most tech literate, might have boogeyman type issues with buying something online, and might not have a Dell booth at a mall near them.

Re:Wonder why they haven't done this sooner... (1)

needacoolnickname (716083) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922327)

I'm thinking it's a lot easier to up sell the person on the phone or with highlighted text on the web site than it is when your computer is one of many in a retail store that isn't yours.

They do ... just not in the US (2, Informative)

taniwha (70410) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922475)

Here in New Zealand I see low end Dells in "the Warehouse" a vaguely costco-like warehouse chain

Re:They do ... just not in the US (1)

zurtle (785688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922831)

Ah you beat me to it... I was about to post the same thing.

Not only that but The Warehouse also sells Alienware laptops at their Stationery stores (not stationary before some smartarse makes a joke). I haven't paid too much attention to the specs but they're selling them at fairly reasonable prices.

I was quite amazed and impressed. Normally they sell junk... ermmm and Dell isn't? (self-correction algorithm kicking in... must... hit... submit)

Dell the Unstoppable (0)

robbiedo (553308) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922287)

Remember the days when tech journalists were drooling all over themselves, and predicting the end of all other computer companies because Dell had found the Holy Grail to ever increasing sales and growth? Today... not so much. /Love my Dell Axim x51v. Best PocketPC ever, and paid only $325 dollars. Couple that with a bluetooth phone and StowAway Bluetooth keyboard, best portable PC ever.

Re:Dell the Unstoppable (1)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922339)

I find my HTC Hermes to be a pretty good device for the money. Paid $400 for it. It's a phone, a pocket PC with WiFi G, and it has a qwerty keyboard that slides out. (If you want to add your stowaway keyboard you can, but I find I have no trouble with using the slide-out one). I also has a 2.0MP camera and of course a MicroSD slot so it has replaced my iPod completely, which I am thankful for because I despise iTunes. It synchronizes with my Outlook appointments flawlessly. It's just.. slick. I wish I had the GPS reciever one, but I'll get that one next.

TLF

Re:Dell the Unstoppable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922719)

... paid only $325 dollars.
Are you sure you didn't pay $325? You actually needed the redundant "dollars" added onto the sentence?
 

To me, it says more about the laptop market (3, Insightful)

Glowing Fish (155236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922319)

It is harder to custom configure notebook computers, so they had to be manufactured in advance

I think that this might have to do with the shift to the laptop market. A shift that I am not convinced is permanent. And if the shift to the laptop is permanent, there will have to be changes.
This might seem like an overly harsh judgement, but to me the major reason for adopting laptops is sex appeal. Most people who want laptops seem to be impressed by how sleek they look, and by how cool it is to hang around in a coffee shop with a laptop. I know there are plenty of people who need laptops for their jobs, but I still think the majority of people are looking at them as an accessory. And most of these people don't know what they are getting into, because after a year or so, when the proprietary screen cracks, or the proprietary power supply goes dead, or any of the other little pieces no longer work, people are very surprised that they have to spend time and money searching for a replacement.

I think that as the laptop market matures, and people have this happen, there may be some demand to standardize laptop parts. This will change both how easy it is to custom make laptops, amongst other things.

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922371)

No, the reason laptops are popular with employees is that you can work any time you want.

The reason laptops are popular with employers is that you can work any time they want.

The reason that desktops used to be popular is that they used to much cheaper, and they were easier to repair which is important when computers are expensive. Neither of these apply so much. It is quite practical to replace laptop every two years or so, which is about right given technology cycles driving hardware requirements, and the fact that you've been working every waking moment.

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922635)

I kept my last computer for 7 years. It was a PII-266. I did do a couple upgrades on it, RAM, video card, hard disk, but only minimally, and the only reason I got a new one was because I had some RAM chips die, and buying SDRAM was almost as much as buying a new computer, so I figure it was time to upgrade. Now I have an AMD64 3200+. This computer should last me another 7 years, unless my needs change drastically. Which I suspect they won't. I don't many games, I have a console for that, and I don't really see why people see the need to purchase a new computer every 2 years.

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (3, Interesting)

SleepyHappyDoc (813919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922781)

That's a nice little anecdote. Unfortunately, everyone in the world isn't you, and as such, some people may have differing computer needs. I edit high definition video...a PII-266 wouldn't cut it, nor would your new AMD64 3200+. It's worth it for someone like me to buy a new computer every six months..the tech is advancing fast enough that the latest CPU will be a noticeable upgrade (quad core made a heck of a difference over dual core from six months earlier, for video editing), and the old machine can still find a nice home in a cluster for rendering the effects.

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922863)

Anecdotes are nice aren't they. I like yours too. However, I think more people have similar usage patterns to me more than you. I check email, do some programming, browse the web, edit some photos, write up documents, manage my finanaces, and play a few simple games. None of those require high powered computers. And while I see the need for having very powerful computers for tasks such as HD video editing, I think that 90% of the general computing population could do without that much computing power, because nothing they do requires that much power. So while I see why you may need to upgrade every 6 months, I don't see why the average computer user would have to upgrade more than once every 4-5 years. I admit, I stretched my last computer a bit, because I didn't have much money for a new one.

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922385)

It is for this reason that I factor the cost of a 3 year warranty into the price of the laptop automatically. I never purchase hardware warranties for any other item, but laptops are expensive, hard to fix, and new parts are usually impossible to find. (Used laptop parts from places like eBay seem more trouble than they are worth, unless you are a repair business that can absorb the cost of duds.) Exceptions include RAM and disk, which come in standardized formats, and I regularly swap those out of laptops. For anything else, there's no hope.

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (1)

realmolo (574068) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922391)

I think notebooks are here to stay. The market will only get bigger.

The thing is, even the low-end notebooks are powerful enough for almost anything, except modern games. And they're CHEAP. And you can surf on your couch with a wireless router. And you can take it with you on vacation. There are just a million advantages. And, of course, you can plug in a real keyboard/mouse/monitor if you want.

Notebooks are really how computers *should* be. Yes, they are hard to repair, but so what? They're cheap, and they last long enough if you don't abuse them.

As far as standardization of notebooks goes...they're already pretty standardized in many ways. I think what you are hoping for is a way to "custom order" a notebook and get exactly what you want. There are a few places that do that, kind of. The problem is, notebooks are hard to assemble, and case design and motherboard design are dependent on each other. And once you've got the motherboard/case picked out, what else is there to add? Not much. It just doesn't make sense to offer notebook customization. Not until all the innards are so tiny, and battery power is so huge, that it just doesn't matter what you stuff into the case.

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (2, Insightful)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922517)

Yes, they are hard to repair, but so what?
So I've had to pay a guy $150 for different repairs, where if I'd been using a desktop, I would have done it myself.

So it's difficult to upgrade the CPU when something better comes along. (Socket? We don't need no stinkin' socket.)

So it's difficult replace the optical media drive if it breaks, or if I just want to be able to burn dual-layer DVDs instead of just CD-Rs. And forget about getting the right faceplate...

About the only upgrades I've been able to perform on my laptop without assistance are replacing the battery, adding RAM, and adding a miniPCI wireless A/B/G card. And the laptop didn't have an antenna in it, so I'm going to need to get in touch with a friend who knows how to add one.

Laptops are a PITA for anyone who's tasted the power of self-service.

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922663)

"About the only upgrades I've been able to perform on my laptop without assistance are replacing the battery, adding RAM, and adding a miniPCI wireless A/B/G card. And the laptop didn't have an antenna in it, so I'm going to need to get in touch with a friend who knows how to add one."

That's too bad. You shoulda gotten a Mac; I've upgraded the hard drives in both of my Mac notebooks in addition to the other upgrades you already mentioned.

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922929)

I should clarify, that those upgrades were with my current laptop, a Compaq Presario 2100. My previous laptop, a Thinkpad 760XL, was flexible enough that I was able to upgrade the hard drive, though I never did use the CD-ROM drive.

As for getting a Mac, well, I'd like to. I love the hardware and the software. But you don't come across decent iBooks and MacBooks used. The Thinkpad was a gift from my parents when it was already a five-year-old computer. The Compaq was a gift from my brother on the promise that I lose weight.

Hell, even my desktop PCs were obtained cheaply. My first desktop, a Packard Bell Pentium 75, was a Christmas present. My second, a home-built AMD K6-200, was sold to me for $200. My third, a Compaq Presario 750MHz Duron, was another Christmas present. My current desktop, a P4 2.4GHz, was bought for $50.

Each of my desktops underwent substantial subsequent tinkering and upgrading. My laptops, not so much.

Power consumption, portable, wireless ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922471)

It's not just slick styling. Laptops are powerful machines, portable, use less power, and you have easy wireless connectivity. Most of the people I know prefer laptops over desktops. I went to the iMac which is a nice desktop system made out of laptop components, and besides the very nice 24" screen I kind of wish I had got a MacBook instead just so I can take it with me if I wanted too...

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (3, Interesting)

Rob.Mathers (527086) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922487)

While you list valid issues with laptops vs. desktop, a lot of consumers just don't care that much. Computers have become a commodity good, and people toss them aside as such. It doesn't matter if it dies in 2 years, because by then people want the latest and greatest anyways, and when you can get one that does everything you need for well under a grand, a lot of people won't hesitate to get a new one, whether or not it's the most economical and efficient thing to do.

I think standardisation of laptop parts isn't that likely to happen any time soon, mostly due to hesitance on the part of the manufacturers. They use those non-standard parts to squeeze the most they can into tiny spaces, and differentiate themselves from their competitors, since they can't do so on features very much. Why pay more for Lenovo's build quality if it's the exact same parts as HP's, or why pay more for Sony's design if the cases are available elsewhere? (examples obviously)

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (1)

dank zappingly (975064) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922537)

That's funny because when I think of the reason that most people use laptops it isn't "sex appeal" it's portability. At universities, people use them to take notes in class. In the office, people use them to do computing away from their desk. In coffee shops, people bring them along so they can computer and socialize with other humans. I don't see desktops taking over anytime soon, unless they start putting them everywhere, but at that point the proprietary screen and power supply don't seem so expensive anymore.

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922585)

You must only talk to folks who have macs. We (yeah, I'm maried, I'm not a slashtard) have laptops because we don't want to pay double to heat the house and cool the house with a quad-core pentium when we don't need more then a 2 year old thinkpad will do. It's also very nice to be able to pick up the computer and go outside and watch the kids while doing homework.

John

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922637)

ubiquitous wi-fi is what made the laptop market grow.

also the fact that 900 will get you a nice one and 6-700 will still get you something useful.

Re:To me, it says more about the laptop market (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922879)

Laptops are a fassion excessory. So what. We shouldn't let ourselves beleave that they shouldn't be. I have a new Shny MacBook Pro. Mostly because I like OS X over Windows and Linux (my preference) and I do a fare amount of graphical work, and I work with systems on different Evnroments Unix one day Windows the next VMS the third day and Mac OS does a good job playing middle of the road in compatability, espectailly with Parrales running, it has a good CPU and Good memory and a decent video card. But why else did it Get it because it looks cool. I could be in a place where everyone is using a laptop and a person out of the blue will go up to me and complement me on my Mac Book and they ask questions about it, this happends usually once a month. I use this as an opertunity to explain what I do for work, perhaps give them my business card, and generally be friendly with people who are being friendly with me.
This is why Apple has been dooing a steller job lately in the Notebook market. But there is room for other systems too, and I know not everyone will want an Apple, I have seen some interesting modded PC Laptops that has gotten attention from others too. Yes a screen can break and a power supply fail (a lot less likely because the AC to DC Conversion is done in the power brick, which you can normally get a non 3rd party replacement for....) But for most people who take decent care of their laptops they usually last 3 or 4 years. My previous Laptop Lasted me 4 1/2 year before the screen got dammaged, and I had to replace a harddrive (indrustry standard) a year or so before that. No laptops are not super geek friendly because you just cant easilly pop them open and fix the problem, but if you are going to use the system without buying upgrades every so often then Laptops are fine, and if you look good all the better.

No question about it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922361)

My wife is an absolute novice to PCs. Heretofore, she used a WebTV unit,
and the prospect of "migrating" to a PC was very daunting to her. Plus,
the fact that she's an inveterate skinflint, she was very reluctant to
spend a lot of money on a laptop for herself.

We shopped at the Apple store in Town Center, Boca Raton, and while we
liked their product line very much, we felt that it was too expensive.

We visited the Dell kiosk in the same mall and got a (slightly) lower price,
for equivalent hardware and Windows XP, making sure that it would be upgradeable
to Vista (allegedly).

We then went to a local Staples, and ended up buying an HP laptop with the
same processor, memory and disk capacity as the Dell, with Windows XP, for
about 35% less than what the twit in the Dell kiosk quoted us, which appeared
to be basically the same price I'd obtained the evening before over the net
from the DellDirect web site.

This all took place between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I used my EPP discount on the HP website and bought myself a nice(r) HP laptop
as well.

Now, we all know the games that are played during the Christmas buying season,
but this, IMNSHO, ranks as about as ridiculous as it gets. It didn't surprise us
when the industry reports started oozing out in late January and into February
showing that HP had trounced Dell during the Christmas season. They lost on price,
and their reputation in the Consumer Reports ratings didn't help, either.

(Parenthetically, I wanted to be able to get my wife an Apple, but she didn't
want to see $2k plunked down on a 15" 1.73GHz Intel laptop that she might not be
able to learn how to use. Apple's features and look-and-feel were stupendous, and
they deserve a lot of credit - it's a beautiful product, but it costs too damned much!!)

BTW, the laptop that I bought for myself was made in (P.R.)China, and I was able to
track its journey from the factory near Shanghai to my front door via FedEx's web site.
Kind of mind blowing for this computer industry (DEC-CPQ-HPQ) retiree...

There is something wrong with Dell's business model and/or cost structure and Mikey
needs to fix it yesterday if he's to have a credible chance of turning Dell Computer around.

I am not an apple fanboy but... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922419)

but it costs too damned much


No it doesn't. Apple's stock price just shot through $100, they are making 35% profit on them.
If people weren't buying macs, Apple would be going out of business.
It may be they cost too damned much for you, ever heard the expression 'buy cheap buy twice' ?

That is a mistake (4, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922369)

What they need is to have new models. The difference between theirs and say a cheap chinese model is minimal. They need to start innovating again. If they start selling Linux, that is to their advantage. If they developed new ideas, rather than just rebranding others, that is to their advantage. But as it stands, Dell will continue losing ground esp if they start selling their system via regular sales channels.

Re:That is a mistake (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922607)

If they start selling Linux, that is to their advantage.

Yes, it is to their advantage from the viewpoint of the 1% of the consumer PC market that demands it. Linux hasn't been to the advantage of a consumer PC maker any time it's been tried, what has changed since the last time? Linux servers probably sell pretty well, but that's a different game.

How do you know? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922717)

If a major company like this pushes Linux on the desktop, can you guarantee that they will get no sales? Back in the old days, when Compaq, IBM, HP, Dec, and SGI were not supporting Linux on their systems, everybody claimed that it would never sell. Once these companies started selling it on servers, they saw major jumps. Point is nobody really knows what will happen.

Re:That is a mistake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922755)

yeah, linux has all the market advantage (and the same marketshare) as vista and we know how that's going.
 
linux isn't going to bring as much new business as getting these on the shelf of best buy.
 
i really wish you linux fags would get off of the whole "if linux was on mainstream boxen..." bullshit. it's simply not true. there is no obsticles to stop anyone from running linux aside from a few driver issues and peoples desire to use it. if joe sixpack really wants a linux machine he'll have it.

Re:That is a mistake (1)

swimin (828756) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922933)

This is simply untrue. The average technical user is able to install linux, but if you had the average I-can't-burn-a-cd user attempt to install linux it would never work. If you told the average user to re-install windows, or upgrade to vista, they would find it incredibly difficult, possibly moreso than installing linux. Being pre-installed, with all drivers working, and manufacturer pushed updates is a serious advantage for the average user.

Dell's slide... (4, Interesting)

raydobbs (99133) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922373)

Coming from someone who used to work at a retailer who serviced machines - Dells are the WORSE. The quality of their product has gone downhill ever since the late ninties - and now are just horseshit. Specialized cheap hardware with crappy support. They reap what they sew in this case. People have stopped shopping with Dell not because they are direct-to-customer - they have stopped because the product is poor, and there are better alternatives now.

Re:Dell's slide... (4, Insightful)

bilbus (999819) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922547)

Bullshit, dell is just as good as anyone else ... they use the same components as hp and ibm. Hell everything has broadcom now. I have never had a problem with a dell .. that was not easly fixed. As for service you do know EVERY maker outsources their support to local repair shops. So if you have a problem its the local serivce shop thats to blame, talk to your rep and get that fixed. I like dell because i can call one person/team to order, ask questions or get support. Try that with IBM. With Toshiba if you bought it from a store you need to find your paperwork before anyone will help you. With HP you can get support from them directly but you need to buy from resellers .. and dell's prices are almost always better. As for the earler poster ... dell has been a little behind in invoation, but the ultra highend server market is not where dell wants to be. Their servers are aimed at the low to mid range markets ($1,000-$20,000). If you want a ultra high end server IBM/HP is the leader. As for linux ... are you kidding me there is NO market for linux on the desktop. As for servers why would they preinstall linux for you, you are going to format and install your choice on there anyhow, you can get the servers with no os installed.

Re:Dell's slide... (4, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922809)

Bullshit, dell is just as good as anyone else ... they use the same components as hp and ibm. Hell everything has broadcom now.

Using the same chips alone doesn't mean that the entire systems have comparable build quality, if that's what you are implying.

Yep (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922825)

As another poster commented, Dell is just as crappy as the others; and vice versa. In that regard they have changed. Dell was, for a while, a lot better. The idea was that you could buy a Dell online or by phone or mail and you would have no problems. If people think they will have problems they want someone local to scream at. The only way Dell could sell the way they did was by making a product so good people would trust their quality completely.

Not only has Dell's quality slipped, their service has become really miserable. I was thinking about buying a notebook from them so I did some Googling. There were lots of horror stories. It would take months before people could get permission to return machines with obvious hardware problems. Naturally, I gave up on the idea of buying a Dell. I bought a used Thinkpad instead.

Re:Dell's slide... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922845)

They are pretty cheap. I was able to configure an Core2 Duo laptop with 2G of RAM for about $400 less than other manufacturers. But you're correct that the build quality is pretty much crap. I have 3 Dells now (two Inspiron E1505s and a 600m), but unless there's some huge sale, I won't be buying another one. Their support sucks donkey balls too. But they are cheap and for a relatively stationary laptop, it's actually fine.

Yeah, super idea (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922381)

Creating a retail chain? Didn't Gateway do this (and fail soon thereafter)?

brainstorming here - one thing Dell could do is (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922417)

... liquidate the company's assets and distribute the proceeds to the shareholders.

Re:brainstorming here - one thing Dell could do is (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922791)

No, your thinking of Microsoft. Close, but no cigar.

...but this was one thing I LIKED about them! (1)

steve-san (550197) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922433)

I just helped a friend configure/buy a Latitude D620 notebook (wouldn't typically recommend the Inspiron bricks) through the Dell website for the express reason that it DID allow so many detailed configuration options!
You can specify everything, from RAM sizes per stick and hard drive speed right down to varying partition options.

Lack of such options was *the* primary factor that pushed me away from HP or Toshiba (ugh, that was a horrid site), which mostly locked you into preconfigured models.

(FWIW -- I'd still go with Thinkpad T or Z series if budget allows.)

Re:...but this was one thing I LIKED about them! (1)

DFENS619 (1008187) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922667)

i have no idea what you're talking about. as a former hp home and home office employee, I can say the website for hp gives you just as many options. The only difference is that the website layout for dell is deisgned to be confusing so that customers on the website will be more likely to call into the sales center where they will be pressured into cross sells and upsells

Better case. Push environmental angle (1)

delire (809063) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922469)

I had a Dell Inspiron i8k. While it was a beast to lug around, I loved the thing. I took it around the world 3 times - my back has less fond memories - but never have I sat at a laptop since with such a reassuring feeling of robust design, right up there with the Apple G3 but with a better keyboard. I dropped it several times, tipped fortified wine all over it, used it in clubs and bars on a world tour and suffered upon it all manner of other sins to the soul of electric things.. yet never did it yield. There was once a problem with a screen artifact but Dell service was next day and on-site. I was very impressed by this.

Admittedly however, the laptop looked fairly hideous.

Dell has (supposedly) the best record for building systems that do the least damage to the environment and really ought to push this angle in the marketplace. That, coupled with a case that doesn't try to look like an unmanned autonomous aircraft - and offering Linux preinstalled (Ubuntu ideally) - would do well to the ends of lifting Mr. Dell out of stagnancy.

Still more PR; Dell's tried "the channel" plenty (3, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922541)

Whenever sales go into the crapper, it's every direct-model vendor's sworn duty to look at "the channel". I can't tell you how many times Dell's announced that they'll do right by "the channel" who uniformly hates Dell's very existence for sins over two decades. Dell's advertisements dissed "the channel", and each time Dell tried to bolster sales by stuffing alternate channels with product, the price dropped out like a rock, no one made any money, and Dell got a nice looking quarter to report to Wall Street. Yet people fall for it every time.

It's like the Look-Mikey Uses Linux PR that so many swallowed hook, line, and sinker.

Dell was built on direct sales. They do it very well. They found that they can't do support out of India for domestic North American consumption, and so their costs are up. Once again, they'll have to squeeze somebody to make their quarter look good to Wall Street. Guess who it is this time.

ObLisaSimpson (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922543)

While initially no specifics are given, the thought seems to be than eventually the company will begin working with a retail chain.

I know all those words, but that statement makes no sense.

Dell Support needs OVERHAUL if they sell non-PCs (2, Interesting)

JoshDM (741866) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922579)

Every time I call Dell service, I get some guy who requests a number from my PC.

I OWN TWO DELL MONITORS

Actually, I did buy a PC on my account, but I bought it for my parents and it is 7 states away.

So when I call in for technical support for my monitors, one of which had a short circuit last weekend, it takes at least an hour to even begin actioning the call. I have to explain that this is in no way related to the computer that I don't actually OWN, and it relates to DELL monitors that are not associated with a DELL computer in any way, shape or form.

It was like pulling teeth. They did replace the monitor though; with one that has a large line of dead pixels straight down the middle. So they're replacing that one too. :( And once you open up an action, they won't stop calling you with updates. And the guys on the other end are telling you to "wait 5 minutes" and then you say "Ok" and they tell you to "wait 5 minutes" and you agree and they tell you to "wait 5 minutes" and then you say "I will wait 5 minutes" and then they finally put you on hold.

Pain in the ass.

Dell already has the solution (3, Interesting)

vux984 (928602) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922639)

Around here, they have Dell kiosks in the mall to showcase their products. Sort of like the sony stores. You can go an touch and see a Dell, and then order it up and it gets delivered to your door.

Its good marketing. Even if the kiosks never actually sell a unit, just having them out there will give the 'i wanna touch it' crowd that security so they can go home and order online with confidence -- and hey I'm not mocking them, I am in that crowd. You really have to feel a laptop to determine its weight, get a sense of its build quality, feel the keyboard and trackpad, evaluate screen viewing angle, brightness etc.

Plus it strengthens the brand recognition, and can put a human face on the transaction.

All these things benefit Dell.

Costco? Shopping malls? (1)

torklugnutz (212328) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922677)

A few years ago, I applied to work for a shopping mall kiosk where people could get hands-on with Dells and purchase them as well.

Costco has been selling Dells for years.

I buy 20 or so Dells each year and I've always done it through their website. I'd never go to the store and buy a pre-configured computer unless it was really well configured and/or really cheap.

Tech article in the New York Times? (-1, Troll)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922691)

Tech article in the New York Times?

1) Doubt it.
2) If it is, the web registration is annoying.

Hey SlashDot editors, you're really nothing but a news-trailing blog. If you're looking for tech news, try the Register first.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/28/religion_d ell_michael/ [theregister.co.uk]

not a good option (1)

zx-15 (926808) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922715)

Selling through retail chain would probably backfire for dell at some point, since the customers, able to examine and touch dell laptops before buying would see for themselves how crappy Dells laptop keyboards are.

People will be happy to hear this (2, Informative)

mangus_angus (873781) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922761)

When I worked at Best Buy I can't tell you how many people I had come up to me and ask me where we kept out Dells. After I told them that we didn't sell Dell computers, they would walk out.

Re:People will be happy to hear this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922875)

You suck, Angus Angus Ass! You're an ass for working @ BB, ASS! You ASS! I'm drunk you ASSS!!!!!!!11!

Ok, after all that, you're still an ASS for working at BB. Full disclosure, I'll be applying there soon. Ass.

Ass.

Love,

Ass (what'd you expect???)

Bite my shiny metal

Antiqueing?

another reason for the shift (1)

DFENS619 (1008187) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922895)

I use to sell computers via phone for hp home and home office and we ALWAYS beat dell on price for notebooks. But dell usually beat us on price for desktops. The reason being that in order to make notebooks cheaper, you need to make many of them in order to get the discounts required for the components of the notebook.(this doesn't play as nearly large a role in desktops)

As for the reason for the rise in notebook sales... Notebooks have always been a better soloution then desktops to typical consumers. They can do anything a regular pc can, plus they are portable. The difference is that over the past few years the price of notebooks has droped so much that they are usually only a $0-$300 more than a desktop with the same features.

ezpz (1)

Shanoyu (975) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922897)

Step 1: prove to me your computer is not a lemon
Step 2: give me financing
Step 3: profit

Why I don't buy Dell... (3, Insightful)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922947)

...and probably never will.

I am on a disability support pension, and get around $500 AUD for hardware upgrades, once every 12 months. There is a local (relatively small) computer repair place near where I live, which I go to every year. Because I went there last year, and am almost certain to go there next year, the guy there realises that although it isn't much, my money is a relatively sure thing for him. Not only that, I've managed to get him some additional business from other family members at times as well.

Due to the above however, I am able to get a new case, motherboard, processor, and ram from him for that $500 (maybe $580) each year. This also means that I can buy a box one year, and a monitor the next, at the rate that I can afford it.

If I went to one of the chain stores here and asked for a Dell, I wouldn't be quoted a price of much less than $2,000, and the only way I could hope to pay for that would be on credit, which being on a pension I probably wouldn't be able to get. Due to the precarious nature of my financial situation I also wouldn't want it, even if they were willing to give it to me.

Dell (and the other big OEMs) are a bad thing, in my mind. In addition to the inflexibility on price, I've known a couple of other people who've bought complete systems and been given faulty hardware; I myself got burned on that score the one time I was able to do it. Not only that, Microsoft's monopoly only really exists because of people like Michael Dell; his profit margin per unit is so small that they are able to bully him in terms of the price of Windows, and dictate that people pay such things as the "Microsoft tax," as well as making it as difficult as it is for other operating systems (such as Linux) to enter the market.

I realise that for some people, technical knowledge and other reasons prevent them from going to the little guy and buying parts; but if you can do it, I advocate it. Not only will it be cheaper in most instances, in my experience you have less chance of getting faulty hardware, and you also don't end up supporting one of the big corporate behemoths that I know people on Slashdot hate so much. ;) It's a win all around.

Maybe it's time (1)

kahrytan (913147) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922953)


Maybe it's time for standardized components for laptops like cases and motherboards. The market is now here to allow people to build their own.

Desktop market is not dead. They are still wanted for hardcore gamer rigs, HTPC, and budget computers.
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