Dell wants to give you choice, but choice is dead

Dell wants to give you more choice. But as Don Reisinger explains, choice is dead.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

According to BusinessWeek, Dell plans on taking aim at Apple and will unveil a solution that could see companies from a bunch of industries working together to create the first solution to give consumers real choice.

The idea will be unveiled in September and will attempt to give you more choice in how you buy and consume media, BusinessWeek reports. More importantly, Dell will give its partners the software they need to establish the solution and will try to turn a profit on the sale of hardware.

"Customers want access to content from a broad variety of sources--how, when, and where they choose," Michael Dell told the publication.

"Apple wants to lock you in," Robert Enderle said to BusinessWeek. "Dell wants to lock you in to choice."

But will all those choices translate into a profit and a new standard that will take iTunes and every other proprietary service down? Will buying a song on Amazon.com and sending "it to the mobile phone of a friend or the car stereo of someone who has satellite radio" really work?

Sure, it might appeal to us and I certainly think that's a neat idea, but based on the information we have, it sounds like there are too many moving parts and too many people involved in the decision-making to make this a viable service.

I look forward to the day where the content I buy from one service will work on anything I want it to work on, but I don't think we're at that point yet.

The music industry is the most obvious sticking point in this whole solution. Granted, Dell claims it has most labels on its side, but we can't forget that this is an industry that's extremely worried and scared of change. And if anyone can buy just one song from Amazon and ship it to a friend's car stereo, I don't see the music industry being too keen on that.

But it goes far beyond the music industry. There seems to be too many moving parts and too many companies with a hand in what's happening for this to be a success. You mean to tell me that I should expect this new standard to beat Apple because companies like Kenwood, Amazon, Dell, EMI, Microsoft, iRiver, HP, XM Sirius, LG, and RIM are going to play nice with each other? I don't think so.

Choice is something that we should all have, but the current state of the tech industry and company cultures dictate that that's simply impossible. Call me a cynic, but I simply don't see Microsoft being too excited about people buying a song from a different vendor and listening to that on the Zune. And I certainly don't see Jive Records getting excited when one person buys a song and sends it to five friends on five different devices from five different companies.

That's not to say that this is an indictment of Dell or what it's planning, but this is an indictment of the protectionist policies that are so rampant in the tech business right now. Suffice it to say that choice is not paramount in any company's business model and more often than not, they want devices and software to be locked down for a reason--it keeps customers in-house and doesn't let them stray.

And although choice is what we all want, and I believe it could happen eventually, it's not going to come from Dell and a loose alliance of partners. Instead, it's going to come when the Old Guard leaves and a new generation of fresh ideas and business models starts dictating this industry.

Sorry, Dell, I think you're ahead of your time.

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