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Is Dell claiming it's better than all that Apple magic?

Commentary: In a new ad, Dell Technologies insists that its ingenuity will make you gasp with wonder. But there's nothing magical about it.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Actor and data center.

Dell/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The claims that tech companies make can sometimes walk the line between outlandish and confusing. And fall painfully between the two.

So when I espied Dell Technologies' new ad, I tried to breathe deeply and just feel.

Here, you see, is "Westworld" actor Jeffrey Wright expounding on the idea of magic.

Sure, he says, it can transform a frog into a prince and happiness into sadness, but that's nothing. Because magic can't, in fact, transform your business.

It can't? I've read so many fine articles in business publications that tell me a CEO came in and sprinkled some magic onto a company's bottom line.

And Apple has consistently told us over the years of its magical, revolutionary products.

Still, Dell Technologies, the entity that now comprises seven companies including VMWare and DellEMC, is apparently doing all sorts of real-world things that are magical in a practical sort of way.

Jet engines are apparently now turbo-powered safety inspectors. And dairy cows are now "living, breathing data centers." Perhaps this explains some of the outages in the cloud. Or, at least, the methane.

Dell's message of a real-world practicality still seems to sit very closely to Apple's.

Cupertino's new tagline is "Practically Magic." This seems to imply that Cupertino is still all about magical, revolutionary products, but now they're actually useful in the real world.

Yet here's Dell appearing to say: "Pah. That's just a phone. We're turning cows into servers."

Indeed, Dell's chief marketing officer Jeremy Burton told me: "People think that Dell's still competing with Apple because of our laptop business. But that's less than 50 percent of what we do since the merger with EMC."

Instead, he explained, this ad wants to dig more at companies such as IBM and Accenture because they -- in Dell's view, at least -- act "as if you can just wave a magic wand and digital transformation will happen."

Neither Accenture nor IBM immediately responded to a request for comment.

The Dell ad ends up treading down a path worn dry by so many companies inside and outside tech. Dell claims that its new entity is all about its people "turning impossible into reality," as if this message was something new.

Here's a Honda ad from 2013: "An impossible, made possible." And in 2006, Adidas promised: "Impossible Is Nothing."

Still, it's good to know that Dell isn't claiming to be magical, but truly practical. At least that's what I thought until I saw the behind-the-scenes video for this ad.

There I saw the words: "Making the Magic." Now I'm all confused again.