Archive for the ‘Business & Industry’ Category

Google: The Borg of our Time

Posted on July 16th, 2007 in Business & Industry, Internet & Networking | 1 Comment »

 

Google 9000

From the “Resistance is Futile” department comes today post:

Not only has Google assimilated every web technology in the world, but they are now colluding with Dr. Evil to incite digital mayhem and take over the world! *Cue sinister music*

Ok maybe that’s a bit extreme, but the company’s motto of “Do no evil” seams to be harder to justify these days as they run around gobbling up web firms left and right. Splashing around money like crazy, it is obvious that they have well over “One Millllioon Dollars!” But it’s not just the act of acquisition that is raising eyebrows, but rather concerns about what the sum of the parts will enable Google to become and do!

How can this be “Evil?”

Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesome synergies among the new Google acquired applications that enhance existing functionality, or are logical new extensions for the search company. But at what point does all this ease of use and integration cross the line from handy tools, to just plain scary?

For starters, consider the issue of Google’s eternal cache of searches; every search, you’ve ever made, chronicled for all time! (And remember, when you are logged in it’s tied back to your Google account.) All searches, from queries for illegal movie downloads to online lingerie outlets, to Craig’s list searches, to blogs about nymphomaniac kitten lovers… oh well I think your starting to get the picture, all archived and organized for future reference, embarrassment or potential litigation. What? Your still reading? I figured you would have shut your Gmail account by now and have switched to a real dog of a search site like Lycos or something.

The World is not Enough

A few years ago, a friend of mine got all hooked on the Google Earth. From the comfort of his office he would spend hours jaunting wildly around the world zooming down with voyeuristic interest on the houses, buildings and parks below. Little did any of us realize just how intimate Google cartography was yet to become.

Consider the Google Mapping product “Street View”. If you are unfamiliar with Street View, it’s an enhancement to the base Google Maps offering that allows you to see actual photographic detail of cities that have been “recorded.” While certainly a technological accomplishment, what are the social and personal implications of this technology? If you were walking out to the mail box when the Google imaging mobile happened by – Congratulations, you are now part of the permanent record of Google. Oh don’t feel bad, many are being assimilated like this daily!

All your Data is Ours

My boss came up to me the other day and asked “What do you think of all these online Google productivity apps?” Wow, now my boss is no technological neophyte, but I was impressed at the pervasiveness of Google’s relatively new Spreadsheet and Docs online apps, so much so, that a longtime Microsoft shop like ours would consider switching away from the venerable MS Office Suite.

And we are not alone! Many others are evaluating and some are even in the process of converting to Google Online apps. I’m not knocking the functionality of Google Docs and Spreadsheet, they work fine; heck, well enough that we are considering migrating to them. Rather, I question the wisdom of turning your content/files over to an orginazation whose stated goal it the indexing of all content on the Web, perhaps on Earth!

I know this has been a rather weighty post, and I’m sure there are some great arguments for and against the juggernaut that is Google. But if history has shown us anything, it’s that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and if that axiom holds true what terrors will the keeper of “Absolute Data” be able to unleash upon us?

“It’s about the install base stupid!” – Part I

Posted on July 8th, 2007 in Business & Industry | 1 Comment »

As the 2008 election cycle’s rhetoric approaches a feverish crescendo, I’m reminded of one politician’s axiom a few years ago, “It’s about the economy stupid.” No, no, this is not going to devolve into a senseless rant about our broken system of governance, but rather an examination of the sad state we find the PC industry languishing in. This post kicks off a series on the challenges facing personal computing and innovation stagnation.

Let’s recap, here we are a couple of decades into the PC Revolution, you know “information at your fingertips” and all that good stuff; and for the most part (in the developed nations on earth), the vision laid out by the Jobs’ and Gates’ of the world has been radically successful. Computers in every home, school and practically every pocket (if you count PDAs and smart phones); add in virtually ubiquitous internet access, and we can safely say the information age has come into its own.

But it is that very pervasive success that now threats innovation across the computing landscape. The large install base is now the industries’ greatest hindrance to technological advancement.

In no area of computing is this more true then the symbiotic relationship between PC Hardware and Software. Think about it, with hundreds of millions of X86 architecture systems out there, predominantly running some version of Windows, there is very little incentive for vendors to venture out in new directions. Rather month after month, year after year; it’s good enough for system/component manufactures and ISVs to offer minimal incremental improvements and call it a “Ground Breaking Must Have” upgrade.

And this vicious cycle feeds itself! But rather then a synergistic cycle that generates greater innovation and cutting edge solutions, this cycle is like a giant boulder rolling down hill squashing the objects it encounters on the way. As these peripheral objects (E. G. software applications, hardware devices, even new CPUs) are mashed into this massive PC collective “boulder”, the mass and diameter of the boulder expands exponentially.

Continuing with the metaphor, the inertia of this boulder has become unstoppable. The boulder is now very big and its moving fast, after all it has been building momentum for a many years now. As the PC boulder careens downhill (think of the hill as the a measure of time), it can easily squash new innovations that are viewed as too cutting edge, or outside the mainstream.

In my next post on the subject, I’ll expand on this problem as well look at the Software side of the business and how it’s failing.

Outlook/Exchange – Best Microsoft app ever?

Posted on May 21st, 2007 in Business & Industry, Windows | No Comments »

So a fair amount of Microsoft bashing has happened here on the blog over the past few months.  And while there are plenty of opportunities to blame the evil Empire for their failings and missteps as of late, visa vie Vista, I thought it might be nice to chronicle one of Redmond’s major successes – Outlook and Exchange.

Outlook, especially when it is teamed with Exchange Server, is one of the most pervasive Microsoft applications on the planet – okay, well maybe not the planet but at least the North American business landscape. Sure, sure, I know what you’re going to say, “what about Gmail” or “there’s always Lotus Notes”, not hardly, the fact remains most business users remain ardent Microsoft Outlook aficionados.

While some might say this is simply because there is “no choice” or that “Outlook is too entrenched”, I’ll put forward another theory.  Are you ready for this?  Outlook is actually good!  No wait, it’s better than good, it’s actually the best Microsoft application available today.

Go ahead, take the cheap shot, if Outlook is the best thing: I’d hate to see the worst. But that is not the focus of this story. I will instead submit to you that the user community has actually selected Outlook as their preferred e-mail and personal information manager (PIM.)

Here are just a few reasons why Outlook is the best in class e-mail, calendar, contact, task manager:

Outlook is bloated in all the right ways – We all know about feature bloat and how most users will only need about 2% of all the functions available, and very few will ever use the other 98%.  Outlook is different.  From version to version; Microsoft has actually added usable, desirable, and downright needed new features to Outlook.

Excellent third-party integration – Just about every ISV and his brother has built Outlook based modules or plug-ins, from chat clients to PDF writers, CRM systems to custom database applications, vendors are leveraging the power and ubiquity of Outlook to extend their applications and create a seamless end-user experience.

Ease of accessibility – The goodness that is the Outlook client front end is taken to the next level when it is paired with exchange server on the server side. This configuration is extremely popular, and typical in the business workplace, and allows for the implementation of OWA (or Outlook Web Access), enabling users access to not just e-mail, but Calendar, Contacts and public data via any web browser.  And with the advent of Windows mobile phone devices, Exchange Server can seamlessly update e-mail and contact information for users on the go.

All together in one nice package – Microsoft has managed to brinig all of the most common tasks and functions together into one cohesive application.  Outlook is not the only game in town, but seems to be the one that strikes the right balance of integrated features and ease of use.

Now don’t get me wrong Outlook is not a perfect application, it’s simply the best one that Microsoft has out right now. It’s actually quite shocking to me that with so many alternatives Outlook remains far and away the most popular Windows-based PIM. And like so many other MS applications, once its delegates talons deep into your data’s heart, it’s hard to migrate elsewhere – but that’s another entry for another day.

US Military selects WOW for Combat Simulation

Posted on April 1st, 2007 in Business & Industry, Games | 1 Comment »

Sources at Blizzard confirmed today that the US Army would begin combat training operations inside World of Warcraft, effective immediately. “The Army needs to train its soldiers on how to handle complex tasks amid a chaotic atmosphere.  We can think of no environment more akin to the crisis in Iraq then a typical session of WOW”, said Blizzard company spokesmen at a joint press conference with Army and Air Force representatives Friday.

 

“It’s totally awesome”, Corporal I. M. Uber continued, “Before I was in the Army I would just lay around on the coach P0WNing N00bz in WOW – I had no idea that would qualify me to face random IEDs and the other horrors I’ll see every day in Iraq.”  Corporal Uber and his squad where among the first soldiers to spend time on the simulators at the Army’s new Cyber training center. While its location is top secret the center’s commander, Major Ed Leet, was enthusiastic about the new facility, “We are very encouraged! Not only is the WOW Combat simulator, helping prepare our troops, but its bringing in many new recruits as well.”    

     

But not everyone is as supportive of the new training curriculum. Anti-military/war groups were quick to condemn the new simulator. Ned Ludd, denounced the move as “a first step to creating cyber-soldiers addicted to direct neural stimulation”, though he later acknowledged he really had no idea how any of this “computer stuff” worked anyhow.

 

Anonymous protesters at a recent anti-war march lead by Cindy Sheehan, commented that all forms of violence should be ended whether they are simulations or not. But when pressed further, most had mixed feelings about the ethics of killing a level 80 Hoard Blood Elf.  The Elf Defamation League had no comment on the matter, but did state it was keeping all legal options open, and would continue to monitor for Elven rights violations.

 

When pressed for a response to the critics, Major Leet emphatically defended the program, “We are simply using the best tools that are available to us.” As a veteran of Vietnam, Leet’s seen his share of horrors in combat. He added, ”I’ve seen chaos on the battle field, the fog of war, and other atrocities too tragic to describe; but let me tell you, a few million screaming 14 year olds savagely attaching you on the Plaguelands of Lordaeron – that, that is terror! WOW is preparing our soldiers for the harshness of today’s real world warfare, one flame war at a time!”

 

Blizzard officials have nothing but positive to say about the project’s future. “Frankly we have not seen this kind of server load and new user creation since the South Park WOW episode”, Blizzard company spokesman said. And with over 8 million users before the US Army deal, you can see why the company is all smiles.

 

I guess you can now find World of Warcraft, at Best Buy and your local Army Recruiter! Happy April Fools!  

64-bit Computing – A reality ahead of its time

Posted on March 22nd, 2007 in Apple, Business & Industry, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

There have been many great advances in desktop computing over the years; and some truly great ones, that fail miserably. The Apple Newton, IBM PC Jr, RAMBUS Memory, 64-bit implementations of software on desktop PCs come to mind – OK well, maybe not the PC Jr., but back on point. 64-bit processors, their respective OSes and more specifically the applications that are available for them, continue to make one ponder, “When will 64-bit computing become a reality?”

 

Alpha Chip

 

In that question lies the problem. 64-bit environments are a reality now, and have been for over a decade; we just don’t really expect them to be, so as businesses, consumers, enthusiasts and the industry as a whole, we propagate a self fulfilling prophecy that the technology is not ready for prime time.

 

And before I get barraged with, “Well, Actually….” responses about how you use 64-bit Oracle or other select server applications, this diatribe is focused primarily on the desktop, though an argument can be made about the sad state of adoption on the server side as well (I’ll just save that for another time.)   

   

Dispelling Myths

 

Contrary to all the industry press, bloggings, and snappy AMD/Intel ads and press-releases; 64-bit platforms have been available for some time. I little history lesson is in order.

 

My first experience with a true 64-bit box was in the early 90’s, the DEC Alpha AXP. Ah, Digital Equipment Corporation, I get a little teary eyed at the thought. Great company, superb engineering, solid performing systems and terrible marketing – so it should be no surprise that many of you might not even recall the AXP systems.  At 150 Megahertz the AXP was blisteringly faster than the flagship Intel chip of the day, you might remember that one a little better, this new thing called “Pentium”, it topped out at 90 MHz. And for an OS, you could run Windows NT (the now defunct Alpha version), OpenVMS, or DEC’s Tru64Unix. While most of these machines are now collecting dust in IT bone yards, a few continue to find life with 64-bit Linux distros for the Alpha.

 

Sun Ultra Sparc

 

The next 64-bit offering to grace the stage, Sun Microsystems Ultra Sparc. What’s that? You don’t remember who Sun is? That’s ok they seam to have a problem with their identity too, but back in the day, the 90s, Solaris was king of the go-go Unix powered internet bubble. The Ultra line of chips was to power 64-bit Solaris running from the largest datacenter on down to the “workstation” on your desktop. Heck, there were even a few OEMs who engineered notebooks with these. Still not ringing a bell? Humm, well that explains a lot about Sun’s current dwindling market share.

 

So if both of these have left you scratching your head surely you will recall the first major 64-bit offering from Intel.  Merced, or it’s current brand name – Itanium. Intel started hyping the crap out of this dog before the turn of the century (oh its so weird to use that expression to describe the 1999 – 2000 – 2001 time period.)  In case you missed it, we where all going to stop buying Pentiums, as they were scheduled to be discontinued shortly after the Itaniums started shipping. After all, why would anyone want a 32-bit processor when they could have a new 64-bit one running at a slower Megahertz that was both pin and code incompatible with the x86 architecture. Not so much.

 

Then there was Apple. Surely Apple with all their technical prowess, engineering experience, and marketing appeal could make this 64-bit thing work! Well they did get the science part right – partly. It was the Macintosh G5, billed as the worlds fastest micro computer and 64-bit through and through. And at it’s core, the G5 chip and memory interconnects have 64-bit data paths; but OSX, while certainly capable of running in a pure 64-bit mode, opted to go with only 64-bit extensions for large memory addressing. But never mind, it turns out that the PowerPC chips that were so fast, got replaced by those 32-bit Intel chips; those ones that were sure to be phased out by 2003, what where those called… oh yea Pentium I think it was. Been so long since any of us have seen one of those.

 

 G5 The Fastest?


Software –  cause I still haven’t found what I’m looking for..

 

Where are the Killer 64-bit apps? There lies the crux of the whole thing. In fact one could ask where are the sorta killer 64-bit apps, or where are the simply ok-but-working 64-bit apps.

 

In each of the previous 64-bit mis-steps, chronicled above, there was not the single quintessential force required to drive adoption, good software. And here is the sad part, since those ill-fated attempts of the 90’s – what has changed? Not a heck of a lot.

 

You think I’m exaggerating? AMD has offered its Opteron and Athlon 64-bit architectures for a couple of years now – how many of you are running the AMD64 version of World of Warcraft?  Oh that’s right, that product does not exist.

 

What AMD is not mainstream enough, too fringe – let’s look at Intel. Itanium, 64-Bit Xeon and Core based systems have been in production even longer, How many people do you see running Half Life 2 for XP Pro x64 version?

 

Frankly I don’t know what it’s going to take for 64-bit solutions to take hold! I’ve been hearing the rhetoric about how life changing the 64-bit apps are going to be, for over a decade now, and it’s just not happening. Its time the industry either gives up on 64-bit on the desktop or build something that makes users value this fancy “new” technology.

 

Vista: I’m still waiting for the “WOW” to start

Posted on March 12th, 2007 in Business & Industry, Windows | No Comments »

This past week, after two months of regular use on my desktop system, I came to a conclusion regarding Vista. After endless dealings with driver and application incompatibilities, reduced overall system performance and considerable frustration with the new “more intuitive” UI, I finally found the fix for Windows Vista more usable – downgrade to Windows XP.

 

Any of you who have been reading the blog over the last few months know that I am not a rabid Microsoft hater, and that’s significant to consider when you weigh my assessment about Vista. I came into this evaluation very open and quite excited about the potential of Vista from the beginning. (See:  Vista + HDTV = Tivo Killer?) That anticipation, however, has been replaced with the dull aching reality that Vista simply carries too much baggage to offset any positives I’ve experienced.

 

What’s more, I have placed an indefinite moratorium of Vista deployment for any of our corporation’s internal systems. I’m also advising customers to do the same in their IT shops. This conclusion is in line with similar announcements from major firms and even government institutions like the DOJ and FAA – this past week these are just a few of the entities that have said “adios” to the Microsoft flagship OS.

 

Does this spell “Doom” for MS?

 

Not hardly, I’m sure the spin-masters at Redmond are working double-time on press releases and other propaganda designed to flood the market with rave reviews about Vista, ignoring the reality of its sluggish acceptance by real-world users.

 

The real test of success is going to be how we all feel about Vista in another year. Sure, early adopters are going to purchase and implement Vista now, and any new systems purchased are coming with it preloaded, but what will the preferred OS be in six months or a year?

 

Will corporations be satisfied with the time tested strategy of waiting for SP1 of any new MS operating system before wide-spread adoption? On the consumer side, will new DirectX 10 hardware and games be so compelling that users will upgrade just for specific titles? 

 

These are entirely possible outcomes, but so are the following:

 

  1. Feed up with the endless Microsoft upgrade merry-go-round, corporations move past the “evaluating” Linux stage to active desktop deployment.
  2. Riding the wave of consumer good will and enthusiast support, Apple, finally cracks past its single digit market penetration as OSX is perceived a better choice then Vista.
  3. Windows XP, now over six years old, remains the preferred desktop OS of choice. Both in corporations that have little incentive to upgrade from a cost and training perspective, and in the home with a large install base and questionable app and driver support home users hold back.

 

All three of these options are viable, and deserve to be explored in more depth. To that end, check back in the coming weeks as I expand on each of these and other paths. Whoever said the OS wars were over anyway? 

DRM Dead – Really? No, not really

Posted on March 6th, 2007 in Business & Industry | No Comments »

Since last month’s flurry of anti-DRM press one might conclude that it’s just a matter of days and all media distributions will be going to market sans any form of Digital Rights Management.  With Steve Job’s open letter on the subject, EMI mulling over the option of going DRM free and a dizzying chorus of industry types now denouncing the evils of DRM, heck it’s going to be nothing but blue skies ahead, right? 

 

 

Down with DRM

 

Not so fast…. I’m I the only sane person to stand up and say this is all just a bunch of fanciful nonsense?

 

Let me state clearly for the record – DRM is from the Devil, or perhaps just “is the Devil” (that’s for all you Waterboy fans out there.) I would love nothing more than to see all DRM eliminated. I do not work in the media industry, and can not agree more about what a sham copy protection and encryption techniques on everything from music to movies to software have become.

 

DRM wastes the time of those looking to exercise legal “fair-use” rights on the media they have purchased, punishes those who attempt to comply with the law, and does nothing to stop the dedicated/skilled pirates hacking it.

 

But hey all that is in the past? After all, Steve Job’s has said that he doesn’t see any need for DRM, and in fact that it’s the record labels that are forcing Apple to apply DRM and locking iTunes/iPods together. Whatever Mr. Jobs, Whatever – weren’t you the one propagating the “fact” that the IBM/Motorola PowerPC (RISC) architecture was the way of the future and so much faster than Intel X86 could ever produce? Hum.. I digress.

 

Even Steve Job’s well intentioned commentary aside, DRM is not going away people. It stings to even admit that, but the truth hurts and this is a cold hard truth.  Just like true campaign finance reform, the parties involved are way too deep into their own mud puddles to seriously consider that they may be getting themselves and those around them irrevocably stuck.

 

So instead of accepting the reality of the predicament, listening to the market, and correcting, most publishers prefer to mask the solution. After all it’s so much easier to blame the problem on insufficient technology, or a poor implementation, and promise to make the next flavor of the month “even more better!”

 

Look at the Microsoft “Plays for Sure” debacle. Not only is the product name a bunch crap, as the Zune (another MS DRM infested product) does not even support Plays for Sure DRM; but this is only a two year old form of DRM that is being deemed obsolete and incompatible with new products from the same company.  TWO YEARS…  The idiots who force this restrictive maniacal on consumers are not backing away from DRM, they’re busy building new, more incompatible and restrictive formats!

 

So perhaps I’m just too cynical, but I don’t believe you Steve Job’s. And I certainly don’t see any signs of Microsoft pushing back at the content producers, demanding they publish DRM free versions of works.

 

Finally to my fellow pundents and prognosticators, I’m with you – I’d like an end to DRM as much as you, but endlessly writing/talking about 2007 as the year that DRM was abolished, is simply a pipedream.  Here is a prediction I feel confident about – the same people naive enough to believe that DRM will really be abolished this year will still be talking about how 2008 (or insert the year of your choice here) is going to be the year we finally go DRM free.

Will Everyone Hate Crackdown?

Posted on March 4th, 2007 in Business & Industry, Games | 2 Comments »

With this past week’s release of the new uber violent XBOX 360 shooter game “Crackdown”, I can’t help but wonder; will all the GTA hater’s jump on the Crackdown haters bandwagon?

 

Crackdown

 

If you’ve missed the hype surrounding Real Time Worlds’ answer to the Grand Theft Auto genre, Crackdown is a third person, free form almost Robocop like, game where you go after the bad guys with all the ferocity of Quentin Tarantino flick. The key difference in Crackdown is that you are on the side of law enforcement, going after the guys ripping off the cars rather than being one of them.

 

Any of you who know me, are aware of the fact that I’m no fan of Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto franchise. That said, I simply loathe all the media, legislative and “concerned parent groups” obsessed with abolishing shooter video games in general and GTA specifically. Many of these well-meaning lemmings hail titles like GTA as the great Satan of our time.

 

Are many of these games suitable for minors – heck no, do I let my own teenagers play them – of course not, but should I patently blame game manufactures for increased youth violence and the general decline of western civilization, give me a break!

 

 ESRB Ratings

 

While this post could veer off into a lengthy discussion about the failings of the ESRB rating system, let’s stay focused on real issue.

 

Let’s be intellectually honest, it’s just too much work for most journalists, politicians and even parents to actually understand what is going on in the youth gaming culture. Instead it’s much easier to just pass blanket judgment (or legislation) against something they don’t understand. This horrifies concerned parents, frustrates legitimate industry, and doesn’t foster healthy kids who need to learn how to make sound decisions for themselves.

 

Speaking as a parent, If I freak out and decry GTA, yet enjoy a well played tournament match of Counter Strike (Both games share the same ESRB rating M), what lesson does that teach my teens about objectively evaluating how they are going spend their downtime and dollars?

 

A Few Options

 

I could simply ban all rated M games for kids, and then play Counter Strike myself, making me a total hypocrite, well within my right as a parent, but how effective would that be?

 

Watch more 20/20 style exposes about the horrors of the computer gaming culture and industry. Fear mongering TV that leaves you without any tangible solution – there’s a great idea.

 

We could demand that our elected officials enact even more laws and restrictions on violent or objectionable video games, or file even more lawsuits against the likes of Id software and Rockstar games. Sure, because the court system really has a grasp on technology – Microsoft antitrust case, need I say more?

The Solution

I won’t say it’s easy people, but then again it has not been easy for any of the past generations of societies before us. As individuals we need to make a judgment, “Is this game right for me?” And as a parent we need to enforce those standards with our kids.

Yes, it’s a lot easier to cast the blame on a nameless culture or focus wraith on a few companies, but as we have seen both the problem and the solution lay much closer to home.

IPod Embargo working?

Posted on February 28th, 2007 in Apple, Business & Industry | No Comments »

In a world of growing danger, hostility and terrorist threats it’s rare that you can pick up the news and find something hopeful coming out of North Korea. Yet that’s what many news agencies are reporting; Kim Jong Il’s ready to shut down the reactors and engage in a diplomatic exchange. Wonderful news indeed.

 

But how did we get here? Could it be the intricate multiparty talks, or perhaps it’s a new found wisdom and understanding on the part of the North Korean government, hum… well maybe it’s just an example of how Apple is saving the world from nuclear winter; one IPod at a time!

 

What???    

 

   Kim Jong Il and his Ipod

 

Well, let’s flashback a few weeks. Some of you may recall that part of the strategy to get Mr. Il’s attention was to cut off access to all kinds of high end luxuries, Playstation 3’s, nice French wines, Italian sports cars, oh and IPods. At the time this struck me as a great idea, but I has not prepared for how quickly this approach would yield results!

 

Love my 1337 Photoshopping skills!

 

Dude, you’re getting a Dell, back

Posted on February 17th, 2007 in Business & Industry | No Comments »

The 31st of January was a big day for both Microsoft and Dell.  Obviously with the launch of Vista there’s a lot on the line for each company as their mutual fortunes are quite intertwined.

MDell

But it was an especially significant day for Dell. Not just because they started shipping systems preloaded with Vista, but as it marked the end of Kevin Rollins stint at the helm, and the return of Michael Dell.

 

Now many of you might think, “So what? How does a returning CEO to a computer company effect me?” and for the most part – you might be right. In fact the same could be said a few years ago about a company that was faltering, taking mis-step after mis-step in the technology marketplace. Maybe you have heard of them, the name is Apple, and the CEO was Steve Jobs.

 

See much like the malaise that Dell finds itself in today, Apple was suffering similarly; eroding market share, diminishing customer satisfaction levels, and a general lack of innovation. Regardless of all the “how’s”, Steve Job’s return to Apple galvanized the company. Under his leadership, Apple pulled out from their slow decent toward becoming irrelevant; just another blip in the history of personal computing.  Instead, Apple has once again revived herself and is one of the most vibrant innovators on the computing and consumer landscape.    

Can all this be attributed to one man? Should it matter to every employee that the company’s founder has returned to rescue their corporate endeavor, akin to a noble knight battling a dragon for the love of his maiden? I honestly don’t know – but it is certain that just as Apple needed (and received) an injection of vitality, Dell is facing the same concerns.

 

This is not a bash Dell piece. I use Dell equipment on almost a daily basis, and have done so for many years. Based on this, it has become apparent that something has been amiss with the Dell experience in the last couple of years.

 

This is not just a subjective assessment due to press coverage about flaming notebooks, continual outsourcing of support call centers to India, or excessive system build/ship times; no there has been a tangible shift in the PC dominated landscape, and it has been bad news for Dell.

 

Last quarter’s market share numbers validate this, HP has pushed Dell aside for the number one spot. What does this say when HP, a company rocked by the “Dunn Debacle” and the seemingly endless fall-out from Carly Fiorina’s exit, can surpass the mighty Dell? It says there is a lack of positive feelings engendered toward Dell and their products, and it’s beginning to impact revenues!

 

It’s against this stark backdrop that Michael Dell returns to assume day-to-day operations. So Mister Dell, we stand waiting to see what you will bring us. How you can awaken your organization and retake the market lead? Perhaps this is a time to look back and mark your past successes?  

 

 Dell Dude

To that end I’ll make a suggestion. Ben Curtis might be out of rehab by now, maybe it’s time roll with some retro commercials, Dude!