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Mon 16 Jun 2003
As Dull as Dell
Category : Commentary/dullasdell.txt
I was at the Sakae Sushi joint next to the AppleCentre at Wheelock. My favourite table is where I can just look across at the action.
It was the iPod Live launch. And I'm thinking of the comment by Richard Lim ("Got Singapore") on Sunday that these hand-held devices are going to get ever more powerful and the next natural progression we're going to see is video.
Now what does it take to do that? Even higher capacity drives. A little bigger screen. In colour, definitely, with very fine pixels and sharp picture quality. A litte bigger form factor, but not too much. Needs to be still slim. And still weigh not more than two CDs. And FireWire 2 or 3 or its equivalent, to keep the data transfer times short. And tight software integration with the mother ship, the personal computer that was used to create or edit all the video.
Now who's going to be able to build that? Not the kids at Sim Lim Square snapping up their own PCs, looking for the cheapest deal. Not even Dell.
I believe that the future favours makers of integrated products. Products that show a tight integration between hardware and software. In all the dark years of Apple's troubles, I still believed they were right. They were criticised for not licensing out their operating system, leaving the field open for Bill Gates and Windows. But what if, having known all that, Apple would still have done what they did. It's in their DNA to build the hardware with the software, as one indivisible whole.
Now back again to Dell. Just what have they done? They've not made the pie any bigger. Instead, they've just grabbed more and more slices to themselves, bleeding the competition dry in a painful price war. What the PC user loses is the innovation that Andy Grove talked about that would have made more out of the processor.
Let's say Dell succeeds in totally annihilating the rest of the PC makers (and they may because, for PCs, I've also only bought Dells lately). They're the only ones left standing. Now what do they do with all that power? Will they suddenly know how to innovate and build great products. Not if they haven't spent all of their lives trying to do that in the first place.