There was a time, in the mid-90s, when I really liked Dell computers. I was baffled by why someone would walk into Circuit City and buy some pre-fab underpowered peice of junk with a bunch of useless peripherals when you could just go to dell.com and get exactly what you wanted. And the idea of dealing with Circuit City’s tech support was laughable because Dell’s was so good. Between our household and my dad’s business we probably bought around 20 Dell computers over the years.
Fast forward to about 2002, which is the last time I bought a Dell. Gone are the tech support guys who actually know how to use a computer, all replaced by folks in other countries reading from a script. I guess if you don’t know what’s wrong with your computer the step-by-step drone troubleshooting is fine, but god help you if you actually know anything about your computer and you’re stuck talking to these people. No, I don’t want to change the display settings, it’s a hardware problem. Yes, I already did that five times. *go through 10 minute process* Nope, still broken. Really, we have to do it again before you can transfer me to someone with a clue?
But admittedly the awful customer service isn’t the full reason I stopped buying Dells. I have an HP now, and I’m sure their tech support is just as awful. Oh, and I purchased my HP from CompUSA, which may actually be a step down on the food chain from Circuit City. Although both are defunct now so I guess it’s a wash.
But the real impetus behind my conversion to off-the-shelf machines is that it just doesn’t matter that much anymore. In 1997 being able to leave off the printer/modem (uh hello we had ISDN)/CRT etc and put that money towards more memory/processor gave you a big boost in performance. Now, not so much. We’ve hit a plateau in consumer processing needs. There are very few applications that require the latest and greatest hardware.
My HP is about two years old. It has a couple gig of ram and somewhere around a 2 GHz processor. Aside from having to throw a decent graphics card in there to play Portal, it’s totally sufficient. I can run Photoshop/Illustrator/CorelDraw all at once without problems, Steam games run just fine on it, and I really don’t find myself wanting for a faster machine. I remember a time when I wanted a computer with as many hard drive bays as possible so I could stuff it full of disks (I promptly blew out the power supply). Now you can get a 1TB hard drive for under $100. Ten years later the hardware just isn’t as important as it used to be.
Dell, in a bizarre bone-headed move to stay relevant, has released a new advertising campaign: Della. This consists of a number of machines that come in colors besides white or grey because apparently the thing women care about most is whether the computer matches their furniture. And in an age where the hardware isn’t terribly relevant anymore maybe that is the only real consideration. I’ve got no qualms with marketing computers towards women, but the whole website comes off as pretty patronizing. I might want a computer that isn’t a blight on my living room decor but I still plan on using it for world domination.
Della has a page of “tech tips.” Here is a sample tip:
Eat better: Find recipes online, store and organize them, and watch cooking videos.
I’m sorry Dell, there’s no alternate universe in which that counts as a tech tip. Unless the computer is also a personal chef-robot. Oh and here’s a hint, even the most techno-phobic women can already do that, with these ingenious things called recipe books, a Rolodex, and cable TV.
Dell’s latest ad campaign illustrates pretty clearly that they’re out of touch. Seriously the “look you can use a computer for your womenly duties” thing is so 1994. What was once a purveyor of perfectly good consumer hardware is now more like a monolith of #fail.