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Opinion: Shed a Tear For Dell?

If you read this morning's New York Times, you likely saw the story, "Dell's Exploding Computer and Other Image Problems." In the article, Dell bitterly complains that the report of an exploding laptop in Japan is being overplayed and analysts are overreacting to potential implications of the negative publicity.

Is Dell a target of negative publicity? Do the scribes in the business, mainstream and blog press want to savage the world's largest PC maker? Are there people who want to see Dell fall from grace? You bet! And it's largely Dell's fault.

Every market leader is a target for teardown. Everyone hates Wal-Mart and vigorously fights to keep the retailer from opening shop in their towns, but everyone still shops there. ExxonMobil is being eviscerated for reaping history-making profits, but we still buy gas at their stations. And Microsoft has long been under the microscope for the security flaws in its applications, yet the number of Windows desktops tops more than 600 million worldwide.

Dell is no different, and its attitude is seemingly indifferent. Dell built its fortunes on direct sales. It's a model that has worked well, but the cracks are beginning to show. Volume, it seems, works well when targeting enterprise accounts with direct sales teams and consumer/small businesses with telemarketing. Penetrating the midmarket? Well, that takes partners, and the channel is something Dell would rather keep at an arm's length.

It's no secret that Dell is cultivating channel relationships because it needs the reach of VARs to get into the plush middle ground and government customers. Yet, it rarely acknowledges the contributions of its partners and resellers. It's that kind of arrogance that helps support the perception that Dell is nothing more than a box pusher. VARs selling Hewlett-Packard, Renovo, Gateway, Toshiba and others are having an easier time deconstructing Dell by telling the story that when you get a box from Dell, you get quality, services and support from the partnership between alternative vendors and their solution providers.

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