Weird Little Human Error Costs Company $190 Million

Hamilton Nolan · 06/03/16 09:10AM

Most of us have a vague sense that huge, multibillion-dollar companies have, like, systems in place to prevent them from making the sort of idiot mistakes that we, normal people, make. Not necessarily true!

Vladimir Putin Taunts Michael Dell

Owen Thomas · 01/28/09 04:28PM

Dude, Russia's not getting a Dell. That's a polite version of what Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia's testy KGB agent turned autocrat, told Michael Dell in Davos. Dell's sin? After Putin delivered a fiery 40-minute sermon about the doom of the West, Dell asked if there was any way his company could help Russia with its computers. Yes, he gave a tacky sales pitch at the high-minded World Economic Forum. But he didn't deserve the tongue-lashing Putin gave him next, as reported by Fortune: "We don't need help. We are not invalids. We don't have limited mental capacity."

Pro journalists flub Dell CTO's departure

Paul Boutin · 11/13/08 11:34AM

This morning, I blogged that Dell had "unpublished" CTO Kevin Kettler from the company's executive staff page. Kettler had been planning to leave as part of a reorganization, but his sudden disappearance from the management headshots would indicate a food fight behind the scenes. Truth is, Dell had never put Kettler on its exec staff page. As CTO, he wasn't considered one of the suits. There's a lesson here for me: John Paczkowski, from whom I got the factoid that Kettler had been removed from the management page, can be as wrong as Valleywag when he really tries. Sorry for the error. I have only one question for Paczkowski's publisher, AllThingsD: You guys hiring? (Photo by CNET/Stephen Shankland)

PC maker rediscovers PC market

Paul Boutin · 11/10/08 06:00PM

Wall Street types are worried because Michael Dell's company hasn't delivered the new music player that had been in the works for the holiday shopping season. The launch has been canceled, says an anonymous insider. That's the best news I've heard from Dell in a long time. Here's why.Competing with Apple on the iPod front seems like a Formula for Fail. My guess is Dell made an honest effort to develop an iPod competitor, then killed the expensive marketing campaign and production run after deciding that they'd built another Zune. Dell has also fallen behind on its downsized-laptop "netbooks", which have neither the power of a full-size notebook nor the portability of an iPhone. Why bother? The biggest segment of the consumer electronics market is still standard-size notebook computers. Dell has fallen from No. 1 to No. 3 position in sales, but that's still a lot of sales. Instead of diluting the company's resources across smaller, trendier markets, it seems more sensible for Dell to refocus on its core product, the cheap-but-impressive PC. Hey, I'd buy one. (Photo by AP/Manish Swarup)

Dell wants employees to practice being laid off

Tim the IT Guy · 11/05/08 11:40AM

Call it Company (Red). Michael Dell is asking employees at his computer maker to take five unpaid days off and thus help the company trim costs instead of slashing jobs. Extorting your people by suggesting they take a small hit now as opposed to a larger hit later on isn't particularly original. “We’ve seen a slowdown in spending,” says a Dell spokesbot, “but the primary reason is to ... to better position Dell for long-term competitiveness.” That makes no sense: Skimping on five days of payroll may temporarily give the company's bank account a fillip, but it doesn't change its permanent cost structure. Then again, maybe Dell's strategy is to drive away employees who are capable of doing math.

After layoffs, Michael Dell brags

Alaska Miller · 10/23/08 12:40PM

In a briefing with journalists, Dell CEO confirmed the completion of his company's 8,500-people layoff. He was not demonstrably saddened, as is normal founder practice when discussing layoffs. But he did point out a recent IDC report showing Dell "outpacing" the rest of the PC industry. If Dell's falling stock price is any indication, the company might be outpacing everyone to the poorhouse. (Photo by eschipul)

Microsoft, Dell agree: Windows XP is worth more than Vista

Owen Thomas · 10/20/08 04:00PM

Most old software gets remaindered to the bargain bins. Not Windows XP, however. In June, Dell wangled a deal with Microsoft to let it install the older operating system for customers who didn't want Vista. In June, the companies charged $50 extra. According to this order page, XP now costs an extra $99 — on top of the cost of Windows Vista, which is baked into the basic price for the computer. Here's the full order page:

New York Times reporter says he's an unwitting Dell shill

Owen Thomas · 10/15/08 03:00AM

Marc Santora, the New York Times reporter who appears in ads for Dell's DigitalNomads site, says he received no compensation for the ad, which came from an interview Santora did for Big Think, a website backed by Facebook investor Peter Thiel. What appears to have happened: Dell or its ad agency, Federated Media, created the ad for Dell's DigitalNomads, using a clip from Santora's Big Think video. In a comment, Big Think cofounder Peter Hopkins says that Dell is a sponsor of his site, but the ad does not mention Big Think. (The Big Think interview was also published to YouTube, and DigitalNomads' producers embedded the clip in a blog post.) From what Santora's saying, no one asked him or the Times for permission to run the endorsement. If so, Dell could be in rather big trouble — and not just with the Times.FTC rules forbid deceptive advertising — such as an ad from Dell which suggests a New York Times reporter has endorsed its vision of mobile technology, when he hasn't. The agency also has strict rules governing endorsements, not all of which seem to have been followed here. Bottom line: Santora seems to be the victim of a sleazy new Internet-enabled advertising tactic. He does offer this amusing side note: The one time he wrote about Dell was when the computer maker's "Dude, You're Getting a Dell" spokesman was arrested on pot charges. Here's his note to us:

The 10 richest tech companies

Owen Thomas · 10/14/08 07:00PM

Where's the debt crisis in Silicon Valley? The knock-on effects are all too real, but frozen credit markets have had little direct effect on business operations, aside from possibly scotching the debt-fueled sales of Alltel and Nextel. That's because technology companies are run by paranoid sorts who like to keep large cash reserves, in case some upstart renders their market obsolete. In good times, activist shareholders whinged about their parsimonious habits, but the cash hoarders are now sitting pretty — and could be set for acquisition binges.One company which listened, to its detriment, to shareholders was Microsoft. When Bill Gates ran the software company, he liked to keep a year's worth of expenses on hand, in case things went awry. Microsoft is no longer quite so stingy with its cash; it dribbles some out in dividends, and gave shareholders a $32 billion payout a few years back. Good thing it didn't shell out $44 billion for Yahoo; that deal would have left it cash-poor and debt-ridden, at exactly the wrong time. Even so, Microsoft's balance sheet is no longer the most sterling in tech. So who's got cash on hand? Here are the 10 richest tech companies, from a Yahoo Finance screening. (I left out companies, like IBM, whose cash was matched by equally outsized debts.)

New York Times reporter shills for Dell site

Owen Thomas · 10/14/08 03:40PM

Why is Marc Santora, a respected war correspondent for the New York Times, appearing in ads chattering about mobile technology? Click on the ad, running on sites like VentureBeat, and you're taken to a site, DigitalNomads, which appears to be a collection of blog-filler pablum about the wonders of the wireless Internet. Buried at the bottom is a tiny disclaimer: "Powered by Dell." Dig under the ad-placement code, and you'll see that the ad is sold by Federated Media, John Battelle's online-ad network. Battelle's outfit grew infamous last summer for getting some of the bloggers for whom he sells ads to recite a sponsor's slogan. That last time, it was Microsoft.At no point does Santora mention Dell's name. But his underlying message, that new technological gear helps us all do our jobs better, certainly serves Dell's purposes. I would have thought that the strict Times ethics code would forbid such an endorsement, paid or otherwise. Why bloody the reputation of someone who's taking a bullet to get stories for the newspaper? I've asked the Times what's going on, but haven't heard back yet. Update: Marc Santora has written in to let us know he had no involvement, financial or otherwise, with the ad — which just adds to the headscratching.

Lehman Brothers spent $309M on IT last quarter

Jackson West · 09/16/08 04:20PM

Pride cometh before the fall, with Lehman Brothers having spent $309 million on information technology infrastructure in the quarter before the venerable financial firm went belly-up, which was up from $282 million the previous quarter. The company spent $1.1 billion on IT in 2007. Projects included a system for the London Stock Exchange to create an anonymous, automated way for traders to do business (which, in the wake of the United Airlines share price debacle, sounds like a fantastic idea). While the relevant divisions can be split off and sold (and the IT grunts are still hard at work), as more banks fail, selling IT equipment to financial firms doesn't look it's going to be a growth business for some time to come.

Dell sales, stock price slipping

Nicholas Carlson · 09/16/08 09:40AM

Click to view"The company is seeing further softening in global end-user demand in the current quarter," a Dell spokesperson told Reuters on Tuesday. The news had company shares down over 10 percent an hour after this morning's market open. In August, Dell posted poor profits and said it planned to cut 8,500 jobs. Earlier this month it announced it would begin selling factories in China, Malaysia and Brazil.

New Dell infomercial reality show premieres on A&E

Nicholas Carlson · 09/11/08 03:00PM

"We Mean Business" is a new reality show that debuted on cable channel A&E over the weekend. Though "reality show" is somewhat of a misnomer. As the clip above makes clear, it's really just one long infomercial for its biggest sponsor, Dell. It stars former “Apprentice” winner Bill Rancic, who these days serve as celebrity non-chef Rachael Ray's "financial buddy"! Rancic is accompanied by a stereotypically flamboyant interior designer and a sexy-librarian-looking computer whiz. The implication: Dell is funding the fantasy that business problems can be fixed with glib advice from a self-appointed business expert, some new computers, and better-designed offices. If that were true, wouldn't we see more successful startups out of San Francisco?

Street Talk

cityfile · 09/09/08 05:18AM
  • Investors generally reacted positively yesterday to the news of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout. [WSJ]

35 percent of biggest companies own

Paul Boutin · 09/05/08 05:00PM

A study of Fortune 500 and other companies found that one in three have bought the name, say, But corporate attitudes toward hate sites vary widely between, say, Dell and Xerox:

Dell to sell factories worldwide

Paul Boutin · 09/05/08 12:00AM

Insiders have blabbed to the Wall Street Journal that Dell "has approached contract computer manufacturers with offers to sell ... its computer factories." Founder Michael Dell is a Texan, not a Valley guy. But he did build a $1,000 investment into the world's biggest PC maker, starting from his college dorm in 1984. Shedding its factories would be a huge change for Dell, which made its name on build-to-order sales. Why would Dell dump its plants?The WSJ recounts how Dell got from there to here:

Dell hopes the telephone company will buy computers for you

Alaska Miller · 09/04/08 12:20PM

A Citigroup analyst says "netbooks" — cheap mininotebook computers like the Asus Eee — will make up a third of all notebook sales in the future, and the majority of sales in developing nations. Michael Dell pitched his company's NetBook product line as something telcos could offer to customers for free, subsidizing the hardware with monthly subscription fees. [ZDNet]

Street Talk

cityfile · 08/29/08 05:12AM
  • Lehman slashed 1,500 jobs yesterday. But job cuts are expected at several other banks around town very soon. [NYT]