MediaFile

Stick a fork in it: Dell is done

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on PandoDaily.com. It is being republished with permission.

Sometimes when life gets too stressful, I try to remind myself that things could be rougher. Sure, I’ve got a raucous toddler and three deadlines in two days, but at least I’m not a coal miner. At least I don’t toil in a factory that renders pink slime. And best of all, at least I’m not running a large American personal computer company that has no conceivable way of combating an existential threat to its business.

I highly recommend this as a stress-reducing technique: However ugly your life gets, just try to put yourself in Michael Dell’s shoes. Imagine what that’s like. Picture yourself at the helm of a company that rakes in $60 billion in annual revenue — and then watch the money evaporating, floating away on a post-PC cloud. You built this company on the theory that computers were a forever-business, that the world would never fall out of love with the PC, and that you would be the guy to supply their fix.

The tragedy is that you were right: The world will never fall out of love with the PC. The PC is still riding high, the PC will be bigger than ever. What blindsided you is how the word “personal computer” would come to be redefined.

The PC is not the standalone, high-maintenance, low-end commodity device that it once was, the device that made you, Michael Dell, the king of computers. The PC is now a dozen different kinds of devices that are connected through one of two or three dominant platforms. The PC includes not just laptops and desktops but also big tablets, small tablets, and surely a coming wave of hybrid devices that function as several of these things at once. All these products favor the skills that Dell, as a commodity bottom-line chaser, has never had a chance to develop: An eye for design, a flair for user interfaces, seamless data management, excellent customer service, magical marketing, and the ability to present a coherent story about how the products can fit into people’s lives.

WebOS: Are we there yet?

It looks like the 600 employees in Hewlett-Packard’s WebOS division will only have to wait a bit longer to know their fate.

New Chief Executive Meg Whitman told French newspaper Le Figaro that she plans to announce her decision on the operating system in the next two weeks.

“This is not an easy decision, because we have a team of 600 people which is in limbo,” she was quoted as saying in French, as per the translation by Google Translate.

Michael Dell: We’re hiring, but show me your skills

USA/Michael Dell says — in no uncertain terms — that his company, which shed thousands of jobs over the past few years, is hiring. There’s only one problem: it can’t find enough qualified people.

“I’m amazed at this,” he said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday at the company’s Round Rock, Texas headquarters. Dell employs around 100,000 people.

“We go in our meetings and we need more of these, and more of these people –hiring, hiring, hiring. And then you look at 9.7 percent unemployment and you say: ‘whats going on here?’ The people and skills we’re looking for, they’re not there. And so, the educational institutions need to do a better job creating these new skills.”

CES: HP demos Android smartbook

qualcommThe nascent smartbook market got a big nudge forward on Friday, courtesy of Hewlett-Packard, the world’s biggest personal computer maker.

Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP’s PC division, turned up on stage at the Consumer Electronics Show during a keynote address by Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs to demo a device based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip and running Google’s mobile Android software.

There was no formal product unveiling, but HP showed off a smartbook with multitouch capability, and Bradley spoke with apparent interest on the  category, which is just beginning to build steam.

HP refreshes touch PCs

Hewlett-Packard took the wraps off its latest line of touchscreen PCs, a category that seems to be edging its way into the consumer consciousness.

The growing popularity of smartphones means people are much more comfortable computing via touch — rather than typing — and new devices are crowding into the market. Touchscreen computers also allow companies like HP to innovate on the traditional PC paradigm, offering fresh applications and stretching the limits of what a traditional PC can do.

“This is not just a gimmick, you have to make it something that’s would be useful for people,” said John Cook, vice president of marketing in HP’s consumer PC unit.

Apple reveals new data in green effort

Apple on Thursday unveiled an overhauled environmental Web page and green strategy, complete with some interesting new data. Most notably, the Mac and iPhone maker is now calculating what it calls its entire carbon footprint–including emissions generated by its products. As the company puts it, “what happens when we design them, what happens when we make them, and what happens when you take them home and use them.”

The approach is different from that used by PC rivals HP and Dell. Apple puts its greenhouse gas emissions at 10.2 million metric tons–a total that includes energy used by folks typing away on on their Macs.

In fact, by Apple’s calculations a majority of the company’s environmental footprint — 53 percent — comes from users plugging in Apple devices and using them. An additional 38 percent comes from manufacturing, with 5 percent from transportation.

Netbooks, Goldilocks and Nvidia

Netbook makers say the small laptop computers are perfect for Goldilocks – not too big, not too small, just right. But Nvidia wonders if smaller Internet-connected smartbooks might make the netbooks line look like a fairy tale.

“I wonder if the netbook is not enough satisfaction for a PC, not enough battery life to be mobile? I kind of feel like the netbook is a ‘tweener’,” Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang said on Monday on the sidelines of a conference on the Stanford University campus, later adding that he thought netbooks would be replaced by “smartbooks.”

That would be great for Nvidia Corp, since it is making ARM-based chips for smartbooks while its rival Intel Corp’s Atom powers most netbooks. The bet on lower-power ARM chips is that consumers will privilege battery life over computing power.

Green PC registry is expanding

In a relatively short time, the EPEAT system (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) has become the green standard for computer products in the U.S. And now the rating program — which ranks PCs and displays based on 51 environmental criteria and compiles the information into a searchable database — is expanding its reach internationally.

With the expansion, buyers in the U.S., Canada, Europe, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Mexico will be able to assess products based on environmental performance in their country. Jeff Omelchuck, EPEAT’s executive director, said the program’s rapid progress is a sign of the growing importance of green in the consumer electronics industry.

“When the registry launched in 2006 on opening day we had 3 participating manufacturers…we had 30 or 40 products,” Omelchuck said. “Today we have the participation of all leading multi-national manufacturers: HP, Dell, Apple, Lenovo, Toshiba Fujitsu, Acer, Asus, really anybody you can name. And a larger number of small local manufacturers.”

Ballmer skeptical of Apple share gains

Never one to let an opportunity pass to tweak a competitor, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer got off a few zingers at long-time rival Apple at the software giant’s analyst meeting on Thursday.

“Share versus Apple, you know, we think we may have ticked up a little tick, but when you get right down to it, it’s a rounding error,” he said. “Apple’s share change, plus or minus from ours, they took a little share a couple quarters, we took share back a couple quarters. But Apple’s share globally cost us nothing. Now, hopefully, we will take share back from Apple, but you know, Apple still only sells about 10 million PCs, so it is a limited opportunity.”

Shipments of Apple’s Mac PCs rose 4 percent in the June quarter, while the global PC market shrank 5 percent, according to Gartner.

AMD gains on Intel as intrigue swirls

New data from research group IDC shows Advanced Micro Devices gained on arch rival Intel in the first quarter PC microprocessor market. There is of course still a huge gap between the two — Intel earned a 77.3 percent unit global market share, a loss of 4.7 percent, while AMD held 22.3 percent, a gain of 4.6 percent — but it’s all the more interesting given the intrigue swirling around the two companies.

EU antitrust regulators are expected to issue a ruling Wednesday that Intel illegally paid PC makers to postpone or cancel the launch of products using chips made by AMD, sources have told Reuters. The European Commission believes the violations occurred during a period stretching back eight years, the sources said. Intel could be hit with a sizable fine.

Intel, with revenue of $37.6 billion in 2008, dominates the microprocessor market. AMD posted revenue of $5.8 billion in 2008.