All Things D Live: Dell CEO Michael Dell

Mossberg: Former Dell CEO has said that R&D is a waste. That still true?
Dell: No. There's tens of billions of dollars spent in the industry, and while we definitely see value here, we're also into leveraging the tech from other partners. For example, the 0.3mm OLED that Sony showed.
Mossberg: You going to use those?

Dell, teasingly, says "You'll see some great stuff from us this year, and 60% more notebook models.
He tends to think they lost focus on the consumer, and consumer products, as we all know, are sexy and business people like 'em, too. He says it's working. Today's business at Dell is half derived from desktops and laptops, but the other half is from servers, storage and peripherals.

Mossberg: There was a sense that you got not much in industrial design from old Dells. Is that changing?
Dell: We've tripled our staff for design focusing on usability and design.
Mossberg: People have always wanted that. Why now?
Dell explains that it's less about MHz and GHz now. In the consumer world, fashion is playing a bigger role, people just say they want a red laptop.
Mossberg: Are you trying to broaden the way you sell by going into retail, which is different from the past history. Are you going to open stores?
Dell: Right now, it's more important for us to pick the best retailers in the world. It's more important to be in 13,000 stores than open them.

Mossberg: Can you take products from market to market, say, from India to the US? For example the Asus Eee PC is something you'd sell in emerging markets but now you've got them doing very well.
Dell: Yes, but we may put them in China first because of the size of the market.

Mossberg: Are you working more closely with Microsoft with Vista 7?
Dell: Yes, it's unprecedented. That early engagement is how you create an early ecosystem, create something new.
Mossberg: You'd talked about software as a differentiator between models of Dell and HP. But those craplets, the additional programs can be a problem.
Dell: We have craplet-free options on our machines, actually.
Mossberg: How do you feel about Vista?
Dell: Early we had driver support problems but SP1 really changed that a lot. The ecosystem has come around. With the level of engagement at an early level (Windows 7), so we can work on things like multitouch, to make sure we have a stable driver base, etc...
Mossberg: Multitouch is going to be a core of Windows 7. Do you believe it'll be the new user interface for PCs? Do you believe it'll replace the mouse?
Dell: It'll complement what we have today, and it won't replace them in all instances, either.
Mossberg: What about phones? Are you going to make one?
Dell: We've got SIM slots in our laptops with 3G. You've got 3.8 billion cellphones going to 5 billion phones in 4-5 years and 1.4 billion internet users going to 2b in 4-5 years. There's an opportunity there, for devices that sit between the PC and the phone.

[All Things D]