Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fake Steve Jobs: Why Dell will not bounce back

FSJ has some of the best IT industry commentary around -- hidden within the amusing facade of a caricature of Apple's Steve Jobs.

Today he's written an unusually detailed analysis of why Dell is not going to recover. He was pretty close to my opinion of Dell's misfortune, but I thought he missed a few nuances. Here's a revised version of the comment I wrote:
The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs: Why Dell will not bounce back

Very well done -- especially since you have to stay in character!

Dell was a parasite on IBM and Compaq's technical innovation. They focused on process innovation.

Nothing wrong with that! It's an excellent strategy -- as long as you understand what you're doing. They didn't. The Dell parasite killed its hosts.

It's bad form for a parasite to kill its hosts. Most biological parasites are much "smarter" than that.

Dell would parasitize Apple if it could, but Apple's hardware value is very closely tied to Apple's OS. Apple does software/hardware unification, and they ain't sharing the hardware. (Apple, incidentally, parasitizes hardware innovation funded by Microsoft's XP/Vista platform. That's what the Intel transition was all about. Happily, Apple knows how to be a responsible parasite. They won't kill the host.)

Dell's other mistake, in addition to failing to understand the duties of a good parasite, was that they flushed their innovators. They ought to have come up with a way to keep fifty or so very smart people happy tinkering in labs, so that when they needed to transition to invention and design innovation they had a core group of loyal innovators to build on.

Instead Dell adopted an aggressive downsizing strategy that maximized returns to process managers, and ignored innovators. Good in the short term, but risky. They could have afforded an insurance policy.

Two big mistakes. I'm not so convinced they can't recover, but it is an uphill battle now.

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