Dan Lyons: Michael Dell goes to Hell

At readwrite, Dan Lyons covers the news that Dell is going private in a leveraged buyout led by a private equity company.

Back in the 1990s I used to cover Dell for Forbes, and I visited the company a few times. They were riding high then, and boy did they let you know it. They were perhaps not as arrogant as Apple is today, but close. I recall very clearly a conversation with Michael Dell where he told me that these little PDAs and phones were never going to be a big deal because who would ever want to read things on such a tiny screen? No, he assured me, the PC had a strong, vibrant future ahead of it.

And now here we are, and I'm thinking about "Ozymandias," and thinking how grateful I am that my high school English teacher made us read that.

Good luck, Michael Dell, and Godspeed. I am pretty sure that I will never use a Dell product, ever, for the rest of my life. But I suppose other people will. I will pray for their souls.

Michael Dell Goes To Hell

(Image: Fortune Brainstorm TECH 2012, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from fortunelivemedia's photostream)


    1. If corporate arrogance is the measuring stick Dan Lyons uses to determine if he uses a company’s products then I can assume that he doesn’t use an iPad, iPhone, Mac, iPod, etc.

      1.  Yeah, they gave me an installment plan for ~£700 of computer, then promptly forgot about the fact :) Lovely bunch, I can recommend their slapdash inefficiency wholeheartedly.

        1. Mr Wham? We have been looking for you. Could you please contact our office to discuss a payment plan for your loan and accumulated interest?

      2.  I have. I am, I guess, one of the few here who is happy with both my Dells. Last year, my power adapter went out, so I made a call and they had a new one on my doorstep within 48 hours. A few years before that, had a keyboard problem, and they sent a worker to my house to replace it. After I had it a couple years, the hinge area cracked, so I sent it to them, they had it back to me before the end of the week. Right now using my XPS17 to type this. And I love it. I don’t feel like a naive idiot, but then, idiots are notoriously bad at recognizing that quality in themselves.

        1. The “XPS” part probably helps explain the situation. For slightly baffling reasons, Dell has two consumer lines: “Inspiron”(which is the cheap seats) and “XPS”(which is the fancier stuff). There is often a surprising amount of confusing overlap, with models showing up under both names with little more than a different plastics kit and preconfigured CPU/RAM, occassionally some promotional deal even makes an XPS model cheaper than an Inspiron equivalent, it’s all kind of a mess; but the ‘XPS’ kit includes nicer support, US-based phone and on-site for much of the screwdriver work.

      3.  As a general rule, I prefer to troubleshoot my own tech issues.  I have yet to encounter a competent tier 1 help desk support person.  But my question was what did Dell ever do to Dan Lyons specifically?  (Have to plead ignorant here, I don’t know the guy or his work).

    2. At some point in the 90’s he said computers still had a long life in front of them, but he was sorely wrong since no one uses computers at all anymore and its only been like 14-23 years… kids who were born when he was saying that maybe have kids of their own, but nary a computer can be found. It’s that type of destructive hubris that makes us wish ill on him.

      1. If no one uses computers at all anymore, then what is this thing I’m typing on? And what are all my coworkers tapping away on in their cubes?

          1. I always get a starry look in my eye cavity when it happens, maybe we call it star-chasm.  I’ll mull it over a bit and poll some co-workers.

      2. Yes, such a healthy industry which is why Dell is now going private, why HP is trying to get out of the PC market, why IBM sold off that part of its business to the Chinese and why Microsoft is desperately trying to claw its way into the tablet and smartphone market. Nope, just a big, healthy market.

        1. You and Fake Steve Jobs sure have some harsh feeling for what Michael Dell thought 14-23 years ago about personal computers and the state of the industry.

          I’ll agree though, this is a lot like that time thousands of years ago when all the oven manufacturers jumped out of their office windows because the first consumer microwaves showed up in a stores and they finally saw the writing on the wall.  Just like ovens -that we only know about because of crude stone works- so too will computers be nigh unheard of to the next generation now that apple has created the first Tablet evar: the iPad2 with retina Display, which our grandchildrens grandchildren will know as the first device made of moving light that jobs brought down from upon high, and they will wonder how we worked with computers before they had displays that could be seen by the eye.

  1. A big chunk of dell revenue is from servers. the stuff you look at on your little phone quite likely coming from a dell server. we use plenty of big (48 or 64 core) dell machines for physics simulations here.

    1.  I’ve spent millions of other people’s dollars on Dell server equipment and I’ve always been satisfied – it’s the most reliable and well-supported in the Enterprise market.  I can’t say the same for HP or IBM.

    2. Our dell servers have been up well over a year straight with no problems. I can’t complain about Dell.

  2. Individual PC sales is not the majority of the company anymore. Like ssam said, servers, services, software. There’s a lot more than the Dimension your Gramma had when you were 14 dude…

  3. This past year Dell took over HP’s majority in market share for server systems. That means they hold the most contracts for their software and service departments – where they make their money. I believe Google is primarily Dell servers, and I know Apple uses Dell heavily as well. They’re doing just fine, and going private means they can completely change their corporate structure away from PCs to enterprise systems without being sued. I don’t know if that’s what they are doing, but it’s an example of what they could do.

    1. Google makes their own servers. I am pretty sure Apple does too. Are you saying they are Dell computers under the hood?

      1. Apple stopped making the Xserve and much as I like the Apple Mini server, I don’t think Apple runs its business off of it.

      2. Google long ago cut out the middle man and has systems built to their spec by companies in asia.

        Dell does the same thing :-)

  4. I use Dell products all the time!  They spark conversation, they join people in unity, they bring common experiences together.

    Everybody laughing simultaneously at their same silly purchase mistake makes for real ice-breaking!  That’s how I use ’em!

    I’m not being mean.  I really have been flabbergasted at the minimal reward for the enormous expense on a Dell laptop.  It was utterly crap.

  5. I’m using a Dell.  Got it for free.  Friend upgrading to Apples all around dumped it.  I initially refused the ‘chance’.  Nice enough box for a Win7 unit, but I’d never send Dell a dollar, nor MS anymore.  Over the years,  I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on personal and business machines.    No more win boxes for me.  The race to the bottom in cost, quality, stability, features, and with MS, security did me in.  (I do think Lenovo makes good hardware, but even then could use some castaway industrial designers from Apple, if anyone there ever quits.)

    I do, however, recommend that Michael Dell close the doors and give the money back to the shareholders, advice he once offered to Apple. 


  6. I’m typing this on a Dell laptop (nothing special, but adequate). I was unaware that this placed me at spiritual risk.

    1.  its surley the most disruptive debate about computers ive seen since windows…. and you cant really throw ‘windows’ out a window, there are topological issues as well as the lack of a physical entity.

  7. Lyon’s really hates Apple. He can’t even talk about Dell w/o getting a dig in. It is some sort of obsession.

    “They were perhaps not as arrogant as Apple is today, but close.” Really? I don’t recall anyone at Apple telling any other company to close up shop and give return their money to their shareholders.

  8. Dell’s used to be good. I know I bought one back in 2000. A Dell Dimension 4200 (PIII 800Mhz I believe). The best way to describe it was that it was a tank. It weighed about 100kg and was over-engineered to the nth degree. About the only thing that sucked about it was that it shipped with “Windows ME” (remember that?!). Anyway that lasted about 1 week before it was replaced, first with Windows 2000, and later with XP, and then later with various flavors of Linux. I never needed to call support about it. I updated the Bios several times late in life for Linux campatibility. It largely collects dust now, but I best I could plug it in and turn it on, and it would run like a champ, like some radiation shielded (considering the case it likely is) military spec space probe.

    In fact a few years ago I did. A friend’s computer died, and he asked me to copy off the local HD onto a 2TB exteral USB. I was like no problem. Of course when I opened it up I realized a bit of trouble as it used the old ATA cables not the SATA that my current rig uses. Then I thought: The DELL! I didn’t have an OS currently on it (think I canibalized the sys HD for something else), so I just used an Ubuntu Live CD. It worked. Of course it took about 40 hours to copy 200GB of data. Which was probably a combonation of using a Live CD, a PIII800Mhz cpu, and 256MB (yes Megabytes) ram, and likely USB 1.0 etc… However I just let it run all night (and day and night) and it eventually finished, no problems or errors. As I said, a solid tank.

    I had heard about tons of other people having problems later, but it was after mine had been regulated to the back bench (2005 or so). Most of the issues seemed to be be laptops and bargin basement PC’s (That Dell Dimension 4200 I believe was 2700$ I believe when it was all said and done). So maybe you just get what you pay for. Then again I recall shortly after that Dell transistioned its consumer support to india while keeping the buisness support in NA. So maybe it is no surprise that the inroads in buisness are a bit stronger than their consumer base.

  9. Oh, Dell servers. Hah. We had next business day service for our systems. First off, that’s a fairly early east coast cut off time for parts, or it’s day after next day (if you are a late rising west coaster, that’s a small window). Second, that’s getting someone on your site. I had a blade server down for two weeks because of all of this. 

    Buy white box, budget in some as spares, you will be far ahead in dollars, headache, and time. We did that with the next cluster we built, and were much happier.

    1.  If you had to wait more than 24 hours for a blade replacement, your Dell rep should be fired.

      In all my years of using Dell Enterprise, I’ve never waited longer than next day for *anything*.

  10. What’s the benefit to the private equity firm? Does Dell have a pension fund to raid or something? Or are they just going to borrow a bunch of money, take it in consulting fees to another company, then declare bankruptcy for Dell?

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