Come on MS, Let Dell Have Their Advantage

WSJ.com – As Microsoft Fumbles, Marketers Supplant Tech Managers:

I could care less, personally, if Microsoft delays their next version, “Windows Vista.” But, there’s an interesting manufacturing related item toward the end of the WSJ article.

“Analysts briefed by Microsoft say the company, while facing a delay to ensure the quality of the product, might have been able to deliver the software by late November. But that could have given an advantage to companies such as Dell Inc., which sell directly through their Web sites, while creating a problem for rivals, like Hewlett-Packard Co., that would take time to deliver machines to their retailers.”

I’m not trying to provoke the “is Dell lean. ala Toyota?” debate. In the PC industry, everyone has been trying to mimic Dell’s build-to-order and/or direct models, much as everyone in the auto industry is trying to mimic and copy Toyota. Dell created their own system, they didn’t copy Toyota by any stretch (yet many lean gurus mistakenly lump Dell into the “lean”/TPS crowd).

The PC industry has had about as much success copying Dell as GM/Ford have had in copying Toyota. There are many marketing and service reasons behind this, but HP and others have been doing pretty well selling through their retail channels, like Best Buy and CompUSA. But, this channel still looks like a push system and there’s supply chain / channel inventory, I’m sure it’s significant.

Point is — the cycle time for Dell to get new product into customers’ hands is much quicker than HP and the PC push-manufacturing crowd because they build-to-order and ship direct. Dell could have the Windows Vista install on their servers November 25th and get systems to customers November 26th.

How long would it take HP to get Windows Vista PC’s through the supply chain? I can just picture the huge sale on old non-Vista PC’s that will happen right before that point. That’s something that Dell won’t have to do.

Apparently, HP has enough influence with MS, that Gates and Co. can’t stand to let Dell have an advantage of being able to sell Windows Vista earlier during the peak Christmas season.

I hate to be first one to accuse Microsoft of this (OK, so I’m not the first), but doesn’t this delay hurt customers in the name of a “level playing field” in the PC industry?

I’m not always the biggest fan of Dell, but I say if they can have the quickest turnaround, why punish them by ensuring nobody gets to sell Windows Vista before Christmas?

If I was Dell (the company and/or the man), I’d be ticked. But, unlike Intel and AMD, what alternative is there? Please, I don’t want 100 emails about Linux, that’s not the topic here.

Maybe Microsoft is mad that their XBox 360 launch was plagued by such supply chain problems and shortages, producing far less than demand? Microsoft’s hardware supply chain looks more like HP than Dell, so maybe they’re kindred spirits in that way??

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I had read, and I forget exactly where, perhaps CNN.com, that part of the MS monopoly settlement case required them not to give advantage to any particular customer, ie Dell over HP. If they are concerned that this could have *legal* consequences for them, that would be their biggest driver in making the decision when to sell Vista.

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