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  • Writer's pictureJeff Matthews

What if Dell Made Cars?

Our checks in the Taiwan PC food chain indicate order rates from the PC end market deteriorated sharply during the last part of July…

So begins a morning research update from one of Wall Street’s Finest, who in this case happens to be one of the few members of WSF who actually performs work above and beyond 1) saying “Great quarter, guys” on earnings calls, and 2) writing retrospective pieces on why they are either a) reiterating their opinion on a falling stock, with the words “Our thesis remains intact”; or b) giving up in disgust on a fallen stock whose thesis has become irreparably broken, with the phrase “We are throwing in the towel,” long after the towel should have been thrown.

But we digress.

We digress because it is fun to be able to write a full sentence once again.

The reason we can write full sentences once again is not, however, because severe carpel tunnel syndrome has caused a diminution in our ability to manipulate a keyboard, for example.

It is because our ability to manipulate a keyboard had until recently been diminished by what we call Severe Dell Keyboard Syndrome, in which the ability of certain keys on our keyboard to respond to things like finger pressure suddenly disappears, for no apparent reason, for days on end.

Yes, we generally write these virtual columns on a Dell notebook—of the type, apparently, whose order rates “deteriorated sharply during the last part of July,” at least according to the missive quoted above.

And while we have no idea if Dell is, in fact, reducing order rates (we’re told Dell’s order rates are actually “stable,” for what that’s worth), we think Severe Dell Keyboard Syndrome, along with a host of other mysterious glitches that never get talked about in glossy research reports, but which, in fact, are rather swiftly draining the so-called “Wintel” swamp of whatever water is left to drain, explains at least a part of the recent slowdown in notebook computer sales in general.

What exactly is Severe Dell Keyboard Syndrome (SDKS)? Well, for the last two days, this particular Dell notebook (two years old, tops) has refused to type an “S.”

Not to mention a “W” and a “2.”

Now, looking at the QWERTY keyboard, you can see that those three letters appear in a column, one on top of the other. Obviously, something went wrong with whatever goes on underneath the delicate keypad that is meant to trigger a response when one taps a key, expecting to see a letter appear on the screen. (And it’s not dirt, or dust.)

This condition made it difficult to do things like, oh, type emails and respond to instant messages, not to mention sign onto Bloomberg and certain other critical but password-protected services that did not accept attempts to copy the missing letters from an existing Word document and drop them into the “User Name” or “Password” lines.

Yes, we actually were forced to do that, until, after shutting down and restarting a few times, the “S” key suddenly and mysteriously functioned correctly.

But this isn’t the first time SDKS has occurred: in fact, we began experiencing Mysterious Key Outages as far back as April, when of a sudden the “H,” “J,” “T” and “U” keys went out for two days.

Imagine if Dell made cars—better yet, don’t. The mind reels! Dashboard lights would go dark. Left blinkers would get stuck on, forever. Brakes would stop working, then steering wheels…the consequences would be staggering.Dell-made cars would cause recalls that make the Toyota break problem look like a piker, except that the Dell problem would be real, not the imaginary hypersensitivity of a few jumpy consumers egged on by the trial lawyer lobby, as with Toyota.

Unfortunately for Dell and the other denizens of the Wintel swamp, however, internet users including yours truly now have a simple, reliable, easy-to-use non-Dell backup that we did not have in April: the iPad.

Of course, the iPad is not yet a full substitute for even this lousy Dell with the floating key-outage. Bloomberg, for example, hasn’t yet figured out how to accomplish on an iPad what Bloomberg can accomplish on even a lousy Dell.

But eventually it will get there, and these Dells and HPs and Acers will finally be relics of a time when a company with a monopoly—that would be Microsoft—could create such a rotten experience for users that even a monopoly would not stop users from fleeing when a simple, reliable, easy-to-use alternative appeared.

And “ evere Dell Keyboard yndrome” ill be a thing of the p st.

Jeff Matthe I Am Not Making Thi Up

© 2010 NotMakingThisUp, LLC

The content contained in this blog represents only the opinions of Mr. Matthews, who also acts as an advisor: clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice, and should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. Also, this blog is not a solicitation of business: all inquiries will be ignored. The content herein is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.

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