Dell’s Downfall

I wrote seven years ago that Dell was on the way out. Apple had just announced they would be moving to Intel-based CPUs for the Mac, and I extrapolated, somewhat wildly it turns out, that this would lead to Dell’s downfall.

I was wrong.

A huge, erroneous assumption in my condemnation of Dell was that Apple’s ability to boot Windows on Mac hardware would make the buying decision easy for folks who cared about Windows but wanted a high-quality machine. In retrospect, I don’t think the ability to run Windows on Mac has done nearly as much to help Apple as I predicted. Why? Windows became irrelevant. In late 2005 I saw the future of personal computing as a battle between Macs, PCs, and Linux. With the debut of Intel Macs, I saw Apple coming to the table with a trump card: “if you like our hardware, we can run your OS!” For a moment, the Mac could run every relevant, mainstream personal-computing OS. That didn’t last long.

The debut of iOS, Android, and to a lesser extent, Windows 8, changed the landscape. Nobody cares that the Mac can run Windows anymore, because nobody cares about Windows. And as much as it pains me to say it, outside of the relatively small group of enthusiasts to which I belong, nobody cares about the Mac. The mass market turned to mobile, and it was Apple, Google, and Samsung who ended up seizing on that opportunity.

I haven’t kept close tabs on Dell over the past several years. Heck, I thought they were on the way out of business, so why should I bother? But taking another look I find their marketing emphasis is almost identical to what it was before. You can buy a laptop, you can buy a tower, you can buy a monitor. That’s the Dell way, and although I’ve been wrong before, I am doubling down: the Dell way will be Dell’s downfall.