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Dell's Spring Fever for Apple

Dell's Spring Fever for Apple

by , 2:30 PM EDT, April 6th, 2001

With conspicuous convergence, a scan of the news wire reveals Dell's head men, Kevin Rollins and Michael Dell, going public with their pessimism about Apple's prospects. Lest the burgeoning spring spur thoughts of rebirth in the education hardware market, Dell revealed through key press actions that Spring 2001 is the time to declare their love for Apple.

Within three days of each other, Rollins announced the Austin-based computer manufacturer would aggressively challenge Apple for the education market, and Dell used Business Week as a platform for marginalizing Apple with comparisons to Silicon Graphics. The only thing missing on this amorous April escapade was the Eiffel Tower for a backdrop.

The tactic of making the "other guy" look wimpy is a courtship technique of the weak. Selling on the perception of others faults minimizes Dell's greatness and only emphasizes Dell's status as "just good enough." Based on the beigeity Dell offers, such a strategy just might be the boldest display of truth-in-advertising yet recorded.

Dell co-president Rollins opined Tuesday that when schools, "switch to an Intel platform, they don't go back. You just don't see people switch back to an Apple platform after they have left." Can you smell the fear of losing in these words? Make no mistake, reclaiming what Dell has wrested from Apple is no small task; school bureaucracies are very much resistant to change.

There must be something in the air to make Rollins overstate his case... What could it be?

I say it's love.

The blanket statement: "you just don't see people switch" is the fantasy of a true romantic. As long as reality shifts and people change their minds, switches will happen. Clearly, if Dell were at such a grand vista above its chief rival, a "Who's Apple?" attitude would prevail. But like that grade-school crush you used to make fun of all the time, neurotic criticism is the sincerest form of flattery.

Michael Dell's continues the secret affair: "It's not to say that Apple's products aren't innovative or cool, but the economic factors here are so overwhelming, it's very hard for them to swim against that tide." Pronouncing that "we know how the movie ends," with such a facile and fragile argument makes Dell look like Shakespeare's smitten gentleman of Verona who doth protest too much. The Apple books are fine and there's lots of room for customer base expansion, but your concern is just north of the border of Cute and Precious, Mike.

Tactically speaking, Dell executives seeding sentiment appears on its face to be a get-tough measure. Yet the firing of shots across Apple's bow reveals an intrinsically insecure company unable to stand on its own merits. Such a broad miscalculation and display of weakness augurs well for Apple. But can they turn it to their advantage and resist the wooing calls of these Lone Star lotharios?

In carpet-bombing Cupertino, Dell's decision to preemptively bring out the executive guns shows once and for all… You always hurt the one you love.

Jeremy Jones is a freelance writer from Minneapolis whose work has appeared, finally.

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