The top-ranking suggestions centred around providing GNU/Linux installed on Dell PCs and laptops. Believe it or not, over 100,000 people took the trouble to register on this site to tell the new CEO, founder Michael Dell, that they wanted GNU/Linux on their computers right out of the showroom. Some 67,000 said they wanted OpenOffice.org on the machines they chose.
So what does Michael Dell, the man who started the company in 1984 by selling grey box PCs out of the back of a truck, do? One would think that having asked prospective customers what to do, and got such a massive response, he would go right back and set in place the required infrastructure to fulfilling these demands.
The simple answer is that he did a fan dance. Dell issued a response to all those requests which carefully skirted the issues and tried to please everybody - which in the end will mean pleasing nobody. The response said the company could not give its customers what they asked for (never mind that people would buy these products) because there were too many distributions of GNU/Linux and Dell did not want to settle on any one as it would end up not catering to those who wanted other distributions. Brilliant. And also quite stupid.
Why did Michael Dell return to the post of CEO? Presumably because Dell has lost its pre-eminent spot in the PC hardware business to HP. An investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission into its financial reporting has been dragging on for months and that is not helping the company either. (On January 17, both IDC and Gartner announced that Dell stood second to HP in worldwide PC shipments for the second quarter running. In 2006, Dell and HP were jointly on top.)
There have been other problems at Dell. Last year it had to recall something like 4 million laptops made between April 2004 and July 2006, all of which had faulty lithium-ion batteries made by Sony. Dell was also hit by the bad capacitor problem where capacitors on some motherboards were breaking up and dying; faulty electrolyte was found to be the cause. Dell's outsourcing adventures in India have hit a bad patch and it has been forced to move some of its support centres back to the US.