This was a request from a friend of mine, but the target of his actual request, the “re-branding” of the more feminine of the Dell products as “Della” has gone the way of the Dodo. It seems the lazer precise skewering that campaign garnered from the Feminist blogosphere hit home. And kudos to Dell for paying attention to the hue and cry.
Now, I wasn’t going to talk about this because I will never own another Dell computer.* I am the only person in my office who doesn’t work on a Dell, because I flat out refuse to have one. I order my desktop PCs from a local vendor with a good reputation, and only very recently had to replace my last one because it just didn’t have the power to run the piggy programs I use on a daily basis as they release newer, more processor and memory intensive versions. But, as we all know, my friends are trying to kill me by goading me into a stroke or aneurysm, so my buddy Dmitri asked me to talk about this.
On one hand, I’m glad that Dell realizes that women buy computers, too. I am not so happy with the heavily gendered marketing they are employing. Desktop machines are still marketed as (whether I believe this to be true or not) solid, tech. Good machines that will meet your needs. Most of the regular laptops are also marketed this way. Their mini netbooks, however, are marketed as “cute” accessories for women. They come in COLORS!! With DESIGNS!!! And look, we’ll sell you a color-coordinated computer bag/purse!!! Look how cute these are!!! And they have built-in video cameras!!! Girls love video cameras, right?! And the ad for the new ultra slim Adamo that is posted on the minibook page looks like a fashion shoot, or a Dior perfume commercial.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to buy my computers based on the idea that they’ll last, will do what I want them to do, and can take a beating, survive cats sleeping on them, etc… It has never dawned on me to choose a laptop because it matched my dress. Seriously. Yeah, so Toshibas only come in Toshiba grey. Big deal. That’s what stickers are for.
The appeal of netbooks to everyone, not just women, is that they are smaller, lighter and work well for very basic operations, like word processing and surfing the interwebz. The Husband What Rules has an Asus EEE pc netbook, which is comparable in price to the Dell minibooks, and will probably last longer. He loves it. I can’t type on it, since I touch type and the damn keyboard’s too small, but it’s no smaller than the Dell keyboards of comparably sized minibooks. It is everything he’s looking for in a laptop, including fitting in his coat pocket. When I had him going out on scouting missions because the hand-me down Dell he’d been using had just gone tits up, I asked him very pointed questions about what he wanted it to do, look like, etc… Color never entered into it for him either, although he did think the blue Acer netbooks were kind of pretty.
So, even were I to take leave of my good senses and decide to purchase a Dell laptop, it would not be because it comes in colors, or is cute, or any of the other reasons Dell seems to think women buy laptops.
*My beef with Dell: I put myself through grad school doing tech support for the university I attended. I loaded software on hundreds of machines we had gotten through a local vendor, as we were ramping up the new computer labs on campus. In the 200-300 machines I loaded, I did not have a single bad motherboard, memory stick or video card. Once I left grad school and started working at another university that used Dell nearly exclusively, at least one out of every ten machines I supported for my department had a bad motherboard, bad memory, the video cards died, etc… on new machines. I have a 1998 Toshiba laptop that still works fine, the battery’s toast, but the computer works fine. Both the Dell and the Gateway we’ve had have died within 3-4 years of age. Dell has done more in this department to promote the use of Macs, than any ad campaign Apple’s ever come up with.
Also, pity the poor vendor who had to call me after my last “How did we do?” survey that Dell sent. He got an earful, and at the end where they’re supposed to reassure you that your experiences were flukes, they’ll do better, he just said, “I am so sorry.” And left it at that.