AGC: Dell Speaks

AGC: Dell Speaks

Michael Dell gave a standing-room only "Fireside Chat" (there was no fire) on Thursday at AGC.

Members of the press were asked to check-in beforehand if they wanted to ask a question during the scheduled post-chat Q&A session. The organizers then asked, minutes before the chat began, that those wishing to ask questions take seats in the front rows so that they could be called upon, seen and heard.

The Escapist's editorial team, AKA Team Humidor, had decided before we got on the plane that Julianne would be the perfect question-asker because A) she's the boss and B) she's hot. So we put her on the list, propped her up with some kind of question or another and then set about conning a photographer out of his chair so that she could be right in the line of Mr. Dell's sight when the Q&A began. She was right under a gigantic, white umbrella. He couldn't miss her. We were convinced that nothing could possibly go wrong.

Halfway through the talk, the organizers changed their minds and decided that questioners would need to que up at the back of the theater to ask their questions. All eyes turned away from our hot, question-asking boss. Then, the first several questioners asked about everything she'd been curious enough about to bother to ask. So ... hey, at least we were there.

Julianne accosted Mr. Dell after he left the stage, however. I'm not sure what was whispered between them, but I'm expecting a nice, big Dell box to arrive at the office any day now. I also understand that we have pictures ... for blackmail purposes. This could be quite lucrative. I'll keep you informed.

As for the "chat" itself, it was fairly memorable. Mr. Dell is clearly an intelligent and successful man, and his name shows up all over the world, including on the two machines I'm using to write this report. So ... he has to have done something right. The chat was actually an interview conducted by a roving reporter. The first part appeared to be fairly well-scripted, but Mr. Dell's replies were nevertheless interesting.

To the casual listener, though, Mr. Dell's main theme was that PCs are better than consoles. This point was hammered home a number of times, especially when Mr. Dell was asked if Dell would be making a console anytime soon.

"A console is a 'fixed' PC.," replied Mr. Dell. "And that's what we're really all about. Let's get people into a fantastic game platform."

"Is the PC making a comeback with Vista?" asked the reporter. "Is it going to be a 4-way battle for gaming?"

"In a PC we can iterate every few months," replied Mr. Dell. "That's the advantage."

A member of the audience followed up with: "What's the incentive to buy a PC vs. a less-expensive console?"

"I should add," interjected the moderator, "that the PS3 will be $600."

"We can get you in a PC for less than that," said Mr. Dell, "and ship it today!"

Then the professional question-asker seemed to throw Mr. Dell for a loop with a question about emulation. It would appear to have not been in the script, and Mr. Dell really didn't answer it. The man began with a long build-up to the question about old movies and how they're still technically supported by devices people use to watch movies today. He mentioned Gone With the Wind, a film made many, many years ago that some of us own and still watch on our modern TVs.

He then asked Mr. Dell what was happening at Dell on "the emulation front? What happens to all of those great games that we can't play anymore?"

"I'm not playing DOS games," replied Mr. Dell to uproarious laughter from the crowd. Whether they were laughing with him or at him was hard to discern.

"What about movies like Gone with the Wind? It's like 60 years old and people can still watch it."

"OK."

More laughter.

About piracy, Mr. Dell said: "When you buy a PC, you actually get about 15 DRM systems whether you want them or not." And then, when asked about the future of Dell in the mobile market, replied: "We are thinking about [the mobile environment] as a persistent connection to broaden the experience."

Which led to questions about virtual desktops and server-based applications. The question was whether or not Dell would be getting into that market.

"The idea of a virtual desktop is interesting.," said Mr. Dell. "It's shifted the datacenter. One of the priorities for us is growing the datacenter." Meaning, they already are in that market. Where do you think all of that data is stored? That's right, in Dell servers.

And then something fun happened. A man wearing a suit grabbed the mic and asked Mr. Dell if he needed "an apprentice."

"Do I?" replied Mr. Dell.

"You do."

"Send me your resume and we'll talk."

And then, after the theatrics, we were back to gaming.

"My son plays WoW a lot," said Mr. Dell. Then an audience member asked if they had any rules in their house for his children's internet usage or game playing. "[They] have to do home work first, and we have various ways of monitoring their activities to ensure that they're age-appropriate."

"Is the ESRB ratings system working?" asked the moderator.

Mr. Dell: "I think they work pretty well. They're stricter than movie ratings. We actually use them in the house."

Finally, a question that interested me for two reasons: The first is that I've lampooned "professional" gaming many times, and was curious to know Michael Dell's opinion of it. The second was that in a day or two I'll be getting on a plane, going to Las Vegas to cover ... professional gaming.

The questioner asked: "Do you think professional gaming is going to be a viable sport?"

"I think so," replied Mr. Dell. "But If you want the most compelling gaming experience, you need a high-performance XPS ..."

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I wonder if Dell would feel the same way about consoles if he had vested interest in selling one. Not really an unexpected attitude from the company that sells XPS and Alienware. One day Dell is going to get into the console market and you'll hear a much different tune.

 

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