Dell On The Blog Offensive

Photo from theinquirer.net - scoop in the Dell exploding notebook newsI was furious when Dell announced its huge recall of notebook batteries that had the potential to explode. I was angry because the web site url the company gave for recall info was non-functioning and the phone number supposedly set-up to handle complaints was disconnected. There was nothing, not a word, of the recall on the Dell web site. Could they be so clueless and not to have a communication mechanism for what was billed as the largest consumer tech recall ever?

Turns out Dell was not clueless, far from it. They had been scooped by a small tech news source – The Inquirer – news, reviews, fact and friction – and their well laid communication plans were shot to pieces.

Dell thought they had this news under wraps until Tuesday, Aug. 15, but Sunday, August 13 The Inquirer piece ran. That soon caught the attention of a couple of enterprising Wall Street Journal reporters who posted an item on the exploding notebooks Monday afternoon. Soon after The New York Times posted a story on its home page that was later accompanied with a picture of a man looking inside the cab of his pickup truck that was incinerated by an exploding Dell notebook computer battery (manufactured by Sony). Take a look at the picture. It’s gruesome.

I am not an innocent bystander in this story. I recently bought a Dell notebook and I wanted to know if I had to call in the SWAT team to mismantle my computer before I took it on a plane trip to Seattle.

I have bought Dell computers, servers and peripherals for 20 years and I am a fan of the company, despite its marginalization of the consumer through increasingly inferior, on-the-cheap customer service. The day the recall was announced Neville Hobson hit it with a post: Dell’s Reputation Tipping Point queried if exploding laptops would sink the company. I weighed in with my thoughts, and my fury, and “Richard” from Dell answered.

He said that Dell was spending $100 million (widely reported) to beef up customer service and their blog, Direct2Dell was helping people get through the recall. The blog was indeed helpful, especially since Digital Media Manager Lionel Menchaca was moderating and reaching out to others in Dell to get answers.

I had some more give and take with “Richard” from Dell on Neville’s blog and was impressed that the company was smart enough to have bloggers proactively reach out with the company story and to put a name and face behind the story (There were photos of actual people on Direct2Dell).

I am writing this on a Dell Inspiron notebook. It hasn’t blown up … yet. Mark Rose in New York. 

Is This Picture Real?

Returning Home to RuinsFrom The New York Times – real or Wag The Dog?

The baby is a doll

The girl is a dog

The building is Legos

The smoke is a taco with the face of Jesus

The people are animation

It is not Beirut – it is Red Hook

Mark Rose, New York

Microsoft Gets It

Microsoft CEO Steve BallmerMicrosoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been taking a lot of heat for his comparison of Microsoft and China and Bill Gates and Mao (see quote below). But the guy speaks off the cuff, he has a certain cool, nerdy cred and he can get away with it.  Contrary to what we might expect, Microsoft has been an innovator in allowing employees to freely blog, while rival Google is much more restrictive. The video podcast interviews of Ballmer are engaging – he comes off as a big, smart kid who will always get off on what cool technology can do.

These skills are essential for Microsoft right now as the company goes through a critical transition. Although the company has performed admirably in the past five years its stock has languished. Ballmer talks in three’s: Let me give you at least three things to think about, which I’m happy to defend - he says to the Wall Street Journal in a Q & A (subscription) You cannot counsel a client in better message delivery. 

The big question of course: can communication drive the company? So far, it hasn’t. Microsoft has a great story but the stock is a huge disappointment. The C-level response to that is that they are patient, they make big bets, and they have surprised the Street, investors, partners and customers before. A lot hinges, of course, on the success of the new OS, Vista, scheduled to launch 1Q, ’07. Regardless, Ballmer has done a lot to mute the Evil Empire image of the company that Gates was not able to shake. – Mark Rose in New York

WSJ: Many companies faded away after their founders left. What can you say that would assure people that, now that the co-founder is moving on, Microsoft is in good hands?

Ballmer: There have been many companies who lost their greatness post their founders… When did China get great? China didn’t get great under Mao Zedong. China got great under – in the recent years – probably got great under Deng Xiaoping.