Monday, Apr. 26, 2004

Michael Dell

The Silicon Valley guys like to smirk, calling him the Wal-Mart of the tech world. But Michael Dell, 39, is having the last laugh. What started as a $1,000 investment, and was launched in his dorm room at the University of Texas, is today the world's No. 1 computer maker in market share, thanks to a relentless focus on selling direct to the consumer. First came desktops and notebooks, then servers and storage, and now printers and flat-screen TVs. The company racked up $41 billion in sales last year and wants to boost that to $80 billion. "That's only 10% of the $800 billion market, not a lot," Dell says, with a tiny smirk of his own. The confidence comes from the pounding that Dell Inc. has given rivals, even storming past HP, by rewriting some sacred tech-industry rules. Instead of innovating, Dell bet that customers would prefer the low price of standardized machines. By dealing direct—not through stores—the company could build to order while paring inventory (now down to a mere three days). The boyish CEO will hand over day-to-day duties to his No. 2, Kevin Rollins, in July but will still be thinking of new ways to scare his competitors. "He's rare in the tech industry," says UBS Securities IT analyst Ben Reitzes. "He gets it."

From the Archive
Dell Wants Your Home: The No. 1 computer maker is expanding into consumer electronics. Is this the American Sony?