Stop the Noiz

Advice for Dell and HP: Innovate, Don't Imitate

Frank Fox - 2008.04.24 - Tip Jar

for years it's been easy to like Apple because they were the underdog. We like to see the underdog win once in a while.

This has all changed, and Apple's dominance in music players, music sales, online movie sales, retail stores, and phones - and its growing computer business - is turning Apple into an 800 lb. gorilla. Imitating Apple is nothing new, but because of Apple's leadership in so many areas, it has become a business plan.

I'd like to switch sides for one day and do a little rooting for HP and Dell. Sure, combined these guys sell more computers each year than Apple has done in the last 10, but lately they're looking a little washed up. I say it's time for a little innovation, not just imitation. Apple could use the competition before they become the next monopoly.

Target Your Product

My first piece of advice is find a voice for each of your products. Buying a Mac is like buying a car. The first thing you're asked is what model. Buying a PC is like buying toilet paper. The first thing you're asked is what brand.

Every single Mac model is different and has a target audience. A true Mac addict can recognize every model they see in a TV ad or movie just by seeing the keyboard. People are lucky to spot a Dell laptop, unless it is shown with a huge logo in a close up scene.

HP and Dell, there is nothing special about your computers. IBM used to have a small amount of style with the ThinkPad series. Sony has tried with its Vaio line, but nothing stands out in a crowded room. This approach has to change - dish up a big helping of style that makes a statement about every model you build.

Recognize the True Enemy

The second piece of advice is recognize the enemy - and it's not Apple. Microsoft wants computers to be cheap so they make all the profits by selling software. This approach has driven the cost down to razor-thin margins, and it hurts your profitability. The people who profited from this weren't Apple or the rest of the PC vendors; it's Microsoft who is able to charge more every year for their products while your PC prices go down.

It's time to wake up and do something while Microsoft has its hands tied because of the various monopoly rulings against it. Once Microsoft is in the clear, you can expect it to again clamp down on any innovations that don't send profits directly to it.

If Microsoft is your enemy, you have to find other software vendors for allies. Don't put all your eggs in one basket again like you all did with MS. Repeating that stupid move won't gain you my respect.

Like any good business dealing, play one side off against the other for the best bargain. Do a little software development of your own. IBM and Apple have both played this to their advantage. A strong open source tool with a proprietary makeover is great leverage against your true enemy and could become a product that you can use and sell on its own. After all, what good is a toaster if there isn't any bread?

Think Different

My final piece of advice: Don't try to match Apple. Anything you do to match Apple becomes an advertisement for them. Your product will be endlessly compared to what Apple is selling. Unless you like to give Apple free advertising, do something different.

The exception here is the remote possibility that you leap ahead 2-3 generation beyond what Apple is doing. This is not likely to happen, because they talk to the same parts vendors as you. (Apple has already found a way to get computer parts that you can't, sorry.) Any stepwise change is just going to be caught up within the next round of updates. There have to be one or two things left that use a display, hard drive, and CPU that Apple hasn't already cornered the market on.

If you still don't know what to do after all this advice, give me a call - for the right price you can hire me as your company visionary, and I'll try to sort things out for you.

Just don't expect me to give up my Mac. LEM

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