I have to confess: “Back in the day” I was very partial to Dell computers; whether network manager on up through IT Director, and subsequently CIO, I somehow got locked onto Dell. In fact, in more than one environment, when it became time to do large-scale purchases of entirely new machines, I often found myself sweeping out HPs, Gateways and the like and bringing in Dell.
I felt comfortable with Dell – although, I must say, when I had backoffices with HP servers, I tended to stay that way. But my comfort with Dell workstations was such that I always purchased Dell for home use too – whether desktop or laptop. I found Dell to be a steady, reliable, high-performing “partner.”
It seems today that Dell has hit a bit of a rough spot. A proposed class-action lawsuit is being mounted by Hagens-Berman LLP (HB LLP). Initially, HB LLP filed suit in support of New York chiropractor Richard Statler’s claim that five Optiplex computers he procured for the office had defective system boards. The problems seem to rest on defective Nichicon capacitors, and the claim includes outcomes that “wreaked expensive and wasteful havoc.”
I think we all know that any kind of havoc is not conducive to sound business (unless you’re a rave promoter). But now HB LLC has expanded the claim to include “hard-disk drives, power supplies, fans, ICH5 chipsets, and DDR2 RAM.” I hate to get all technical, but this is not sounding good for Dell. The alleged faulty components are in about 11.8 million Optiplex units that Dell sold from May 2003 to July 2005. A Dell internal document estimates that 8 million of the 11.8 million units could have faulty system boards, and HB LLC is soliciting claims from other consumers.
It bears knowing that Advanced Internet Technologies, better known as AIT, sued Dell in 2007 after purchasing 2,000 Optiplex computers for alleged system board, CPU fan, and power supply failures. Recently unsealed documents from that case show a couple of very troublesome things: Dell knew of the problems, and ranked consumers by an evaluation of importance in making decisions about whether systems would be replaced. Wow.
Dell has settled with AIT, but not before Dell executives had an internal discussion on how to downplay problems with Optiplex.
Now, this blog post is most decidedly not a forum for me to air grievances, although I do reserve the right to make assessments of meritorious products and solutions. But in the interest of full disclosure, I’m typing this article on a relatively new HP laptop (a G72). I also own a Dell laptop that is several years old. I ran into problems with the latter about a year ago, leading to my purchase of this HP – blue screens, freezes, frequent reboots, etc. I tried trouble-shooting it to include re-installs of the O/S, removal of suspect software, malware, etc. However, the problems persisted. At present, I use it for cataloging items for my home’s inventory. This light use seems to be ok; but I did not get the service nor life from the laptop that I anticipated. This recent awareness on my part regarding Dell’s problems will have me revisiting that laptop with my Dell representative.
In the meantime, consumer beware. If you’re in a professional setting with selection and purchase authority, track what’s happening with Dell very carefully. Also, do a little research on the other companies and vendors.
Here’s the real take-away: Things do change, and what was steady and reliable in the past can become shaky. Conversely, times change such that it is often that a brand and associated company goes through a rough spot and comes out better and stronger than before – vis-à-vis all competition, too.
I am hardly counting Dell out. Watch this carefully.
By: David Scott is a CIO/Fortune 100 IT professional and author of I.T. Wars: Managing the Business-Technology Weave in the New Millennium which was selected as an MBA text at the University of Wisconsin. David is the sole-proprietor of BTW Consulting: Business writing, policies and plans. His comments have appeared in InfoWeek, Capitol Weekly (CA), and on the DC television show Communicating Today. You can connect with David on LinkedIn or on Twitter by following @davidscott999.