The World According to Dell: From Hardware to Software and Now to the Cloud

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-09-19 Print this article Print

The Texas-based PC and server maker has expanded greatly into areas nobody would have considered five years ago-software, services and clouds-and Dell may have HP to thank for boosting its personal computing business.

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Pre-med student Michael Dell started his computer-upgrading company at age 19 in his University of Texas dorm room in 1984. Twenty-seven years later, although he's traded that little place in Austin for a tad-larger headquarters 20 miles up Highway 35 in Round Rock, his company has moved about a zillion miles from where it began.

With his design-it-yourself PCs in the 1980s and 1990s, Dell liberated personal computing in its own image, providing a cost-effective alternative to IBM PCs and Apple Macintoshes. In the mid-1990s, Dell moved into the enterprise: It developed its own PowerEdge servers, resold and serviced storage hardware from EMC, and made it all economically attractive for the company's core group of customers-specifically, midrange and small businesses-to purchase and deploy the type of IT infrastructure they needed.

In 1992, at age 27, Dell (pictured) became the youngest CEO to have his company ranked in the Fortune 500. In 1996, Dell started selling computers through the Internet, the same year his company launched its first servers. Since then, the business has zoomed to a 2011 market cap of $26.6 billion.

Respect Earned

Along the way, Michael Dell has earned the respect of many people in both the IT world and the larger global business community. Enterprise Strategy Group founder and chief analyst Steve Duplessie summed up what a lot of people in the business think and say about Dell: "Michael is a true one in a billion-one in $25 billion, to be more accurate.

"I can summarize the man easily. When we were talking about a bidding war that turned into billions [in 2010, Hewlett-Packard outbid Dell to buy 3PAR for $2.4 billion, a deal that many industry observers said was overpriced], Michael said: -I still spend my shareholders' money as if it's mine-as if it's real money.'  And you know why? Because it is.

"To other mucky-mucks spending billions, it's just numbers on a spreadsheet. Michael knows it's real money. It was pretty profound. The guy is real."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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