Skip to main content

Dell's downward spiral: 10 years of failed consumer devices

Things haven't gone so well since the Dell Dude split

Share this story

dell adamo xps
dell adamo xps

Update: Dell shareholders have officially voted in favor of allowing Michael Dell to buy back his company, and Dell has said he intends to focus on business and enterprise computing.

It's no secret why Dell's struggling so badly it just took a $2b loan from Microsoft and bought itself back from shareholders to become a private company: after more than a decade of effort, the company never figured out what consumers actually want beyond low prices, or why they might want it.

You might laugh, but it's true — a look back at Dell's biggest attempts to crack the consumer market and compete with Apple over the past 10 years reveals an embarrassing series of missteps, mistakes, and flat-out bad software, culminating in a flurry of poorly-executed mobile devices in 2010 that sealed the company's fate. As the world went mobile, Dell stopped moving. "We're no longer a PC company," said Dell VP Brad Anderson last year. "We're an IT company." We'll see how Dell manages this new chapter of its life in the months ahead — but for now, let's just slide on down Dell's sad little spiral together.

Dell's failed consumer products


Dell Inspiron 8600 - 2003
The Inspiron 8600 represents Dell at its peak — and the beginnings of its precipitous fall in the consumer market. The 8600 and its cheaper sibling 8500 were stellar examples of Dell's ability to assemble commodity Windows systems for low prices, and they became almost ubiquitous on college campuses around the country. But they were also cheaply made, prone to failure, and suffered badly from Microsoft's laissez-faire attitude towards viruses and security in Windows XP. These are the Windows laptops that taught people to hate Windows laptops — and sent a lot of people shopping for MacBooks.