Dell_Direct - GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS STANFORD UNIVERSITY CASE NUMBER EC-17 NOVEMBER 2000 DELL DIRECT In 1995 a manager from a leading Japanese

Dell_Direct - GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS STANFORD...

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Haim Mendelson prepared this case as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. Copyright © 2000 by Haim Mendelson. All rights reserved. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, email the Case Writing Office at: [email protected] or write: Case Writing Office, Stanford Graduate School of Business, 518 Memorial Way, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-5015. Version: (A) 11/01/00 G RADUATE S CHOOL OF B USINESS S TANFORD U NIVERSITY C ASE N UMBER : EC-17 N OVEMBER 2000 D ELL D IRECT In 1995, a manager from a leading Japanese computer company was recounting his company’s plans to conquer the US Personal Computer (PC) market: “We have a strong brand name in consumer electronics, and what’s most important, we build many of the components that are needed in the PC ourselves: monitors, audio equipment, CD-ROM, DRAM, and so on. This will give us a tremendous advantage over American competitors, who have to buy everything outside” [1]. Several years later, it looks like the competitive weapon of this and other Japanese electronics giants had misfired. Hitachi, Sony and Fujitsu have spent vast resources trying to crack the US PC market, but had only captured a marginal share—and they had lost money doing it. At the same time, Texas-based Dell Computer Corporation, founded by 19-year-old Michael Dell in a university dormitory room, was growing rapidly, sustaining a much larger portion of the PC market than all Japanese vendors combined. And while the Japanese PC manufacturers were unable to earn any money in the US market, Dell, which produces no PC components, was highly profitable, grew by more than 50% each year over the 1995-1998 period, and saw its stock grow about 30,000% in a decade (see Exhibit 1 for Dell financial summary). Dell does not manufacture any components, but it can produce custom-built PCs in a matter of hours. How does Dell do it? Why did it succeed where the Japanese PC manufacturers floundered along with the rest of the PC industry? How does Dell use the Internet to achieve competitive advantage? I. D ELL B ACKGROUND The Personal Computer In 1976, Stephen Wozniak and Steve Jobs sold their worldly possessions (a programmable calculator and a Volkswagen) so they could start Apple Computer, a manufacturer of Personal Computers (PCs). The Apple PC became popular with the invention of VisiCalc, a spreadsheet program that made inroads in corporations. By 1980, IBM realized that the PC business was rapidly developing, and decided that it must ship its own PC within a year. To meet this challenge, IBM opted for an open architecture, using off-the-shelf components and software that were purchased from outside vendors like Intel (the 8088 microprocessor), Microsoft (the DOS
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Dell Direct EC-17 p.2 operating system) and Tandon (the disk drive). Moreover, IBM went beyond its own sales organization and used computer retailers like Computerland and Sears Business Centers to sell the IBM PC. The result was that the IBM PC met its one-year, August, 1981 deadline
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