The PC market is shrinking as individuals and enterprises alike are relegating more and more tasks to smartphones and tablets. The useful life of a desktop/notebook also continues to be lengthened. DELL will continue to sell computers and make profit, but unless they change their focus significantly, they won't be a company that the stock market would love.
I think they made the right decision. if they turn around and become the next Apple or Lenovo, they could always go public again.
- But Ford doesn't need to go private because Toyota came along
Going private wouldn't be a bad idea. Even better would be to sell the company to its employees. That has worked very well for similar companies.
1) Ford's stock is at the second highest general level it has ever been at during its publicly traded history (matched by the 2011 peak, and surpassed by the dotcom bubble days). Consistent with the QE bull market, but a good thing non-the-less.
2) As a business their financials and profit level is very healthy. They not only did not take a government bailout, but they're making a lot of money.
3) In 2003 Ford sold 6.7m vehicles. In 2012 they sold 5.7m vehicles. In 2003, Ford had net earnings of $495m (in 2002 they had a net loss of $980m). In 2012 they earned $5.66 billion. They've produced over $22b in operating income the last three years. This during a span of time in which US auto sales has been a disaster volume wise.
4) Their 2003 auto sales were $134b. Their 2012 auto sales were $126b. They trimmed off bad business segments, and boosted profitability by a factor of 11 = a very healthy, if mature business.
5) Their stockholder equity in 2003 was $12.5b, it's now $19.1b and heading north rapidly. They hold $36.6b in short term cash & securities. They completely paid off the collateralized $23b loan taken out in 2006. Their pension system is in much better shape today than it was ten years ago. They hold a mere $13 billion in debt in the automotive division, the bulk of their balance sheet debt is financing credit for customers.
Their business is drastically better off today than a decade ago. It's spitting tons of cash, enabling the pay down of past mistakes. Soon they'll also have a fully funded pension system, freeing up even more cash. It's better to be profitable and have a sustainable business than to lose a lot of money selling more cars.
"Ford Motor Co (F.N) could be in a position that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago - with a fully funded U.S. pension fund."
- Ford/Lincoln/Mercury - 5,892,000
2002 Net loss $980M
Now it is only Ford and Lincoln brands
2012 Total Vehicle sold - 5,668,000 
2012 Net Income $5,665M
Are you sure about your data?
> Even better would be to sell the company to its employees. That has worked very well for similar companies.
American Airlines is employee owned and that has worked out smashingly, not!
$190B assets / 170k employees = $1.11mm/employee. I doubt the average line worker has that kind of money on hand.
I'm not saying it is indicative of anything, but having been released from Ford those brands are now doing very very well.
- Volvo is losing money
- Jaguar lost 60% of unit sales in last 10 years.
- Land Rover actually improved, up 30%
So you might get the impression I generally like Volvo and would be happy to hear this. ;-) It was my impression they were on their way out of the US market though.
...towards a better world.
However, there are two things that still drive me crazy about Dell. The first one should be easy to fix which is that the website is absolutely awful. It's slow, many links 404 and overall just a very frustrating experience. It took me awhile to get my computer ordered because of how slow the site is and I almost gave up.
The other issue is the fact that I have to wait about 2 weeks for my computer to be built and shipped to me. Most of their computers they don't even allow many configurations so why can't they have pre-built machines ready to ship. The very day I ordered my Dell, I ordered a Macbook Air for my wife which shipped in 2 days.
Dell has been pretty consistent force on the server side, but I'd like to see them regain some strength in the consumer laptop market again.
The idea is wonderful. For Lenovo laptops, by contrast, you have to somehow know exactly what components are used in your laptop and then go hunt for those drivers. (And no, I don't want to use Lenovo's mysterious automatic update tools.)
I said that Dell's idea is wonderful, but the implementation is horrible unfortunately: you have to download the drivers one-by-one (unless you're willing to use their download manager), the order in which drivers are installed matters and Dell doesn't tell you the order, the documentation on what each driver does is very poor, they are inconsistently packaged (zip files, exe's, installers), and sometimes you get offered, say, 3 wifi drivers because apparently Dell doesn't know which wifi chipset was put into your configuration.
Like I said, the idea is great.
That seems very old-fashioned to me. Why should I have to type in anything at all for the computer to know what its components are? Shouldn't it already know?
Apple’s Software Update/Mac App Store knows what computer I use. Even with the BTO Mac’s, the OS knows what components those computers have. The Mac App Store never presents me with software that's not suitable for my computer. I know x86 + Windows has way more possible configurations, but even there, it should be possible to create a report of all the components and send it to Windows Update (AFAIK, it already does that — why are you downloading drivers from DELL’s site?)
To me, that sounds like a Windows problem, not a DELL problem. No matter what components your computer consists of, a basic Windows install should have a suitable driver for your network card, at least to get online to get better and more up-to-date drivers. In my experience, it always does. Maybe I've just been lucky?
As for downloading drivers from a different computer, I think that's mostly done by IT departments to manage numerous computers. Of them, it can be expected they know what they’re doing, and making the process easier could obviate their job, so I suspect they like the way it is now.
That about sums it up.
making the process easier could obviate their job, so I suspect they like the way it is now.
Wow what? You realize this mindset is extremely common, and that some people will in fact actively sabotage improvement efforts to keep their jobs, right?
Having worked in a large IT department I can assure you that anything that alleviates the drudgery of basic computer maintenance is very very welcome by everybody I've known who works there.
Including drivers for cards that were created after Windows was released? Good luck with that!
> As for downloading drivers from a different computer, I think that's mostly done by IT departments to manage numerous computers.
Clearly you've never had to wipe/restore a family member's computer because of their crippling malware, er, porn, habit.
If a Windows Update-type solution could be funnelled through a locally controlled central server for large installs, then the IT department could approve each update, and the local machines would automatically pull them down.
I assume that something like this already exists (even if it's not tied into Windows Update specifically).
WSUS is Windows Update for small/medium-sized MIS to run.
you're breaking the 0.01% use case at the expense of the 99.99% use case. maybe the 99.999%
Also, you might need a specific version of a driver, not the latest version. Online software update always get the latest.
(Not to get off topic, but creating a standalone install of Mac OS X Lion is real challenge. Installing it assumes that you'll always have a fast and reliable Internet connection.)
Oh, I know all about that, it can be quite an ordeal. Earlier this summer, I spent a month in rural France for a film shoot. A few days after I arrived, my MacBook Air started acting up, all apps would crash immediately after launch. Ran Apple Hardware Test: bad RAM. I called Apple, they wouldn't send someone out to fix it, I had to bring it to an Apple reseller for repair. Which I did, and it was fixed in three days. However, even in that larger city (Poitiers), their Internet connection was bad. They wouldn't install the OS for me because they knew their Internet connection was unreliable. Afterwards, I tried installing the OS via a WiFi network at a local bar, it took 4 hours and then it failed. I tried a different bar, same story. Eventually, I went to a cyber cafe in an even larger city, where it took 1,5 hours and went through.
OS X’s web downloader should allow for partial downloads, download suspension, and redownloading of specific corrupted blocks. It's great that you don't need a disk or USB drive to install OS X from scratch, but the process still needs work.
Also, even if the RAM somehow corrupted the OS, weren't you able to boot into the recovery partition? Or even install it on a USB drive beforehand? https://www.apple.com/osx/recovery/
As for the Internet connection, I think that’s kind of expected of a computing device nowadays.
It's been this way for years.
I do a fresh install of each new laptop I get, and all I do is install the system updater, wait for it to d/l the files, wait through a few reboots, and done.
Biased IBM supporter here. All IBM/Lenovo Think systems have a MachineType-Model (eg: 2537-25A). It's written on the button of Thinkpads, or you can find it by:
Windows: GUI: msinfo32, CLI: systeminfo
Linux: dmidecode -t 1
The only possible exception, I can think of, is if you order a custom configuration - then the model part will say 'CTO'.
Fujitsu has Fujitsu DeskUpdate that's similar.
They're pretty sweet, much better than downloading everything separately, but of course not as good as Linux with its package managers.
That’s a comment I did not expect on Hacker News. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of HN commenters have some experience with web site development.
To do an overhaul on a site like DELL’s is a major undertaking. I wouldn't characterize it as ‘easy’. If their corporate structure even allows rethinking their online strategy, it will take considerable effort to get the site on par with the likes of Apple and Microsoft. Those, IMO, are best in breed. And DELL is certainly not alone, HP’s site is just as nightmarish.
If they ever desire to improve their brand identity (and subsequently, their website), they would do well to look at how Microsoft did it. Microsoft hired Pentagram to completely rethink their aging brand and went from there. DELL’s brand could use a similar treatment.
Dell, I would guess, does much of their business online so it would seem a no-brainer to make the online experience as good as possible. Broken links and consistent timeouts are inexcusable for a site like Dell.
Oh, I agree. But I doubt they’re doing it on purpose. I would also guess that they have a lot of talented, knowledgable web developers on staff. That's why I'm saying that the problems are probably not as easily solved as you may think. I don't know what their backend is, I don't know what kind of CMS they're using and how it ties into their ERP, CRM, etc.
The last time I ordered a customised Macbook, delivery took weeks (and was from China). This was some years ago though, so may no longer be accurate.
Seems the answer here would be for Dell to have 'off the shelf' laptops with standard configurations they can ship quickly. If they don't already, I'm kind of amazed.
My main complaint was that after ordering a computer for 1800.00 it's very frustrating to be told that it will take 10-20 days just to "build" it, much less how long it will take to actually get to me.
I’ve ordered numerous BTO Macs. Most took only a few days, a few took over a week. In the cases that it took over a week, it was always when the model was recently released.
Apple works the same way, in my experience. When I ordered my Air a couple years ago, I couldn't buy it in store because it was a configuration they didn't carry and it took several days after my online order before it even shipped from China.
There's a reason customer satisfaction is high with these two brands. If Dell can bring his company back, 1997-Apple style, we might see a resurgence in its popularity (which peaked in the mid-2000s), giving us three major consumer notebook player.
This is a good time.
Lenovo and HP's business websites were a disaster for the longest time, they basically forced you to go through a VAR, and Dell had such a huge price advantage that it didn't make sense to go with anyone else.
Also, wtf is with the lack of pg up / pg dn ?! That's just weird.
- You read "pg up" as "Paul Graham up"
What goes around..........
It was in 1997. Apple wasn't doing so well at the time.
That said, it only applies to their servers - the disk arrays and networking equipment is all garbage. I hope this change won't result in making the one thing that works worse.
But the current place is all HP. They've been running on HP since the 80's, the core of the business still runs on an Itanium. I was literally laughed at for suggesting Dell servers or Lenovo laptops. The IT VP seems to think Dell is a joke and Lenovo is 'low quality, Chinese'.
The only advantage of going with HP in my mind, is the fact that there are two fortune 500 companies in town who run all HP. That results in them having techs in the area all the time and a decent inventory of warranty parts nearby.
I hate Dell desktops, although I do like their monitors. Dell desktops tend to over-optimize on power supplies and other components, such that you can never really upgrade them later.
+1 for supermicro and they're fun to build as well as bomb proof
Dell's done some dumb stuff, and the newer gen models are a nightmare to figure out (limiting number of disks for no reason, requiring 2.5" on some models but not others). Plus they gouge you to get a functional KVM ($300+?) But they've been far more reliable than Supermicro, in my limited experience.
> Intel developer machines
Several of their new technology server motherboards were actually OEMed by Supermicro -- stuff like the boards for testing TXT, etc. Intel is actually getting out of the motherboard industry entirely. I think Supermicro was mainly involved in the server boards, not their desktop boards -- bigger manufacturers usually used intel reference designs but still made their own board, so I think it was a low volume business.
Own a Dell Precision M4700 workstation (absolute beast of a laptop, i7 3840QM, 32GB RAM, 2X 256GB SSD), and 2 R610 1U rack servers in colo. I've been buying Dell servers since 2005, never a problem, completely satisfied.
Their high end consumer, and mid-to-high-range server gear is pure quality, at decent pricing to boot (if you can work a deal with sales rep., or find a decent unit on Dell Outlet that is).
Also extremely important: Dell obviously did quite some research in figuring out which components work together well. This translates in close to zero OS problems due to hardware goining nuts. In other words: no kernel panics, no blue screens. Some people hardly belive this, but the only time I saw blue screens/kernel panics in the past ten years was when doing stupid stuff myself, never because of the machine.
(note: I cannot compare to other brands here, maybe they are as good as well - I certainly hope so for their users)
Buying Dell back enables them to think long and hard about the future of computing--to invest into the future. This makes me very hopeful that my next computer will be a Dell: A well-designed machine that was not just a marketing-driven reaction to what the others were doing, but a result of thorough engineering and thoughtful design.
In the majority of corporations the pressure is immense to be profitable, stay profitable and increase profitability. Very few CEOs/BODs have the backbone to resist that.
Also in the pre-2000s run up, Dell's pricing was premium, and with those margins Dell provided better than average in-house, state-side customer support, most (all?) of which was eventually dismantled as PC prices dropped.
Maybe when they aren't public, Dell will be able to invest heavily in R&D & customer support without worrying about earnings per share for the next quarter.
They either need to push more on the services front or become the Apple for Windows powered systems, where they could sell stylish and great products at a premium.
My past submissions:
(That said, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a negative factor associated for forbes.com. They've basically sold out their brand to clickbait nonsense)
This wouldn't be such a problem if Dell didn't go out of their way to use proprietary hacks on their hardware.
But there are other industries where this is totally okay. Gaming. Set-top boxes. Stuff like that. People expect those devices to be highly proprietary and not serviceable.
Dell's Ophelia project could be a good move for them - use their brand-name to sell Android-based TV boxes. That's a place where people still do the yearly upgrade treadmill.
This is the company that came up with built-to-order from their online shop, fast deliveries while maintaining small inventory, and selling most computers directly. Their computers weren't innovative per se, but their business processes were. What have they done for us lately?
Anyways, you speak truth. Microsoft and DELL are set up for enterprise. IT departments love them and are right to do so.
However, the market is changing. Already, there are more smartphones than traditional computers. Tablets are outselling traditional computers. Many of those devices will need to connect to corporate networks. As a result, IT management is changing. Because of BYOD, the needs of users are taking front-seat to those of IT managers. They might not like it, but I believe the trend is irreversible.
For example, as an avid gamer, I was upgrading my computer in some way or other every year or so for the past (nearly) 20 years... and four years ago I bought a decent whitebox with a good video card. It still chews through new 3D games just fine at 1920x1200. Sure, could be better, but only trivially. The clear improvement-on-potential-upgrade is gone. I'm just now contemplating upgrading my 64GB SSD c: drive because, frankly, win7 filled it early and it's always been a pain to keep clear ('how' is beyond me) - but that's a software storage pain, not much of a hardware limitation. I don't feel the need to upgrade because the hardware is limited...
"Research group IDC said tablets will outsell all PCs in the three months to Christmas, and by 2015 they will regularly outsell PCs as consumers' tastes shift towards the more mobile format."
Meanwhile on mobiles and tablets, touch resolution & lag are the issue.