When
· Naughties
· · 2005
· · · October
· · · · 26 (1 entry)

Shopping, Dell vs. Apple · The oth­er day when I was writ­ing about my new Ul­tra 20, I thought I’d vis­it the com­pe­ti­tion and check prices. So I head­ed over to Del­l, which I’ve al­ways thought of as the canon­i­cal ex­am­ple of a great on­line store. When I used to buy their server­s, it was con­ve­nien­t, lin­ear, and fast: start with your form fac­tor and pro­ces­sor, then pick your mem­o­ry, disk, net­work card­s, and click “Buy”. But I haven’t been there in three or four years, and things have changed. First of al­l, I had to choose whether I was a large or small busi­ness or a con­sumer (Huh? I just want to buy a com­put­er, OK?) then picked a reasonable-looking Xeon. The de­faults were about right ex­cept for I want­ed a 250G disk. Nasty sur­prise; the cus­tomiz­er is nowhere near as good as it used to be; awk­ward, con­fus­ing and slow, and you have to page way down to get to ob­vi­ous stuff. And I to­tal­ly failed to con­fig­ure the disk; there are all these op­tions about the num­ber of disks and kinds of con­nects that seemed to be in­ter­re­lat­ed, and when I picked one of the 250G disks, it de­clared my con­fig­u­ra­tion in­valid, and in ten min­utes of fid­dling around I couldn’t make it go. I al­so re­cent­ly vis­it­ed Apple’s on­line store; my 2003 Pow­erBook is pret­ty well out of steam and I’m not switch­ing to a So­laris portable un­til there’s Ubun­tu or equiv­a­lent for it. So I or­dered a new Mac; that took like 4 min­utes elapsed, start to fin­ish. Maybe an Ap­ple Pow­erBook has less op­tions than a Dell desk­top? But not that I care about; I bumped the de­fault mem­o­ry and disk on the Mac, which more than I want­ed to do with the Del­l. I’m shocked; I al­ways thought that Dell’s #1 com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage was that they were easy and quick to con­fig­ure and buy (Grant­ed, they’re rea­son­ably cheap and well built, but not re­al­ly ahead of the pack on those fronts). Maybe they’re no longer in­ter­est­ed in the high-end con­sumer? Maybe I just had bad luck? If not, this is a big deal. [Up­date: Wow, I got a flur­ry of email say­ing “No, it’s not bad luck” ac­com­pa­nied by fur­ther com­plaints about, well, ev­ery­thing, but most­ly pric­ing and com­plex­i­ty. So I think it’s a re­al news sto­ry.]
 
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