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Mossberg: Dell looking to become chic

Dell will get stylish, and Google may be going in too many directions, says the gadget writing king.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--Dell. Fashion. Those two words typically aren't used in the same sentence, but the times are changing, says Walt Mossberg.

Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal columnist and dean of gadget reporters worldwide, said during a lunchtime speech at the Dow Jones Consumer Innovations Conference taking place this week that the Round Rock, Texas-based PC maker is concentrating more on industrial design and technological features that can differentiate their products.

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It's a bit of a reversal. Dell came to prominence through direct sales and streamlining supply chains, not coming out with innovative products. But Michael Dell wants to reconnect with consumers.

"Michael Dell, I don't think, would say it, but I think they want to morph into a technology company," Mossberg said.

Other notes from Mossberg:

--Google is doing great, but danger signs lurk. The company is moving into the cellular market with Android, its cell phone software spin out. It remains unclear whether carriers and handset makers will adopt this wholeheartedly or just in a token way. At the same time, competitors like and Microsoft are putting more effort into beefing up their search and advertising platforms.

"They (Google) are spread very thin," he said.

--Apple is having a tremendous year. The iPhone was clearly a hit. Mac sales, moreover, are climbing, particularly if you examine the markets that Apple actually participates in (i.e. ignore corporate computer sales). In consumer notebooks, Apple has close to 20 percent market share, he said. (We will try to get official numbers from IDC on this later.) Still, if Apple has a few clunkers in a row, it could take a hit. Apple TV "has not been a big success," he noted.

--Facebook will probably change its policies about how it shares data about its customers. Right now, with the Beacon ads, Facebook broadcasts information about your Web habits to your friends.

"The Facebook think is egregious and I can't imagine they won't back down," he said. "It is particularly a mistake in that they didn't need to do it that way."

The update of Microsoft Office was gutsy, but Vista was "essentially a disappointment," he said. But Microsoft will likely gain some market share with the new Zune.