Monday, July 11, 2005


Dell Sucks

Five years ago I bought an ultralight Dell Latitude LS. I was very happy with it. Considering that it is really designed to sit on an executive's desk and be used for some light web surfing and the occasional email, it survived an unbelievable amount of abuse, involving late night coding sessions, world travel, and frequent use in hostile environments like manufacturing facilities. After two years, the hard drive gave out. I replaced it, and the machine still runs fine to this day. It runs Linux and Windows 2000.

Over the past couple of years, though, I've heard nothing but bad things about Dell. An individual I know bought five Inspirons for use in his small consulting firm. Every single one of them gave trouble, which ranged from total motherboard failure to hard drive and screen problems. The Dell tech support is like your medical insurance company; their tortuous procedures are designed to wear you down so you'll give up. They make you go through pointless procedures like removing and reinserting the hard drive.

My wife uses a newer model Latitude from work, and it's fortunate she works for a major law firm. She has had so many replacement parts practically only the shell is left of the original machine she was given two years ago.

There are some great blogs on the subject of Dell's dire products and customer service here here and here.

Younger readers may find this difficult to believe, but going back 15-20 years, it was actually possible to make a good profit assembling and selling PCs yourself. I worked in a business where we had a nice sideline doing just this. Of course, now, given the amount of kit your customers can get for $400, you now need to be buying Walmart-sized quantities of parts to be making a profit in that game. And given the size of the profits to be had in this commodity area, you are also not likely to be funding a world-class service and support organization.

15 years ago we could sell you a PC and send a knowledgeable person round to fix it in the event there was a problem. But you were paying for that! Now we all want to buy complicated equipment at commodity prices, but still expect high standards of service.

Some firms can manage this very difficult balancing act. IBM, for instance. When it came for me to get a new laptop I opted for a wonderful IBM Thinkpad G40. I love this piece of kit for its speed and ease of use (better keyboard than many desktops), and also for the feeling it gives you of rock-solid bulletproof stability, kind of like a late 80s early 90s Mercedes-Benz (before they started a race to the bottom like Dell). And all for $1400. (Remains to be seen what happens to quality now Lenovo have got their hands on IBM's laptop business. Maybe I should buy another G40 as a spare. Too bad you can't lay down computers like people laid down supplies of classic Coke when they brought out new Coke)

But it looks like Dell have got a long way to go.
I guess I am the lucky one at my office then... I managed to get the only non-Dell laptop in the company - though I am not sure my Presario (Compaq) will work any better.
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