Page last updated at 23:20 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 00:20 UK

Dell aims to reclaim global lead

By Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent, BBC News

Dell founder Michael Dell says the computer maker must target China and India

Michael Dell has said his firm can regain its spot as the world's number one PC maker by switching its focus to consumers and the developing world.

"We're growing faster than our industry," he told BBC News, "so if you keep on doing that for long enough time, you'll certainly get there."

Mr Dell returned as chief executive in 2007 after the company he founded as a college student was overtaken by HP.

He said his turnaround strategy for the firm was already bearing fruit.

He said sales were up 19% at the end of the year, having started the year falling at a rate of 11%.

Does Dell care about looks? Not just about the look and feel of its products - once derided as beige boxes by Steve Jobs - but about how it projects itself as a brand?
Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones

In an interview in Venice, where he was explaining his new strategy to European customers, Mr Dell conceded that the company had missed out on the boom in supplying computers to home users - who make up just 15% of its revenues - because it was focused on supplying businesses.

"We were not really participating in some of the fastest growing areas of the industry, so we've reoriented the company to go after that."

Dell built its reputation and profits on just-in-time production of computers ordered direct by customers rather than sold through stores.

Now that model is being adjusted, he said.

"Let's say you wanted to buy a Dell computer in a store nine months ago - you'd have searched a long time and not found one. Now we have over 10,000 stores that sell our products."

Mr Dell said that the slowdown in the US economy was having some impact, with buyers in the financial sector delaying some purchases. But he said that most of the customers Dell wanted to target did not live in the United States.

"We have to create the products and services that will appeal to first-time users in India, the Middle East and China."

But Michael Dell was dismissive when asked whether he planned something similar to the so-called $100 laptop, which the One Laptop Per Child Project is aiming at developing countries.

Michael Dell
We actually make them in any colour - whatever colour you like
Michael Dell on "beige box" accusations

"It's a product that was talked about first four years ago but so far nobody has deliver a $100 laptop. We're a bit more on the practical end of things, delivering things that people can use, products that are priced right and priced to sell and really be functional."

Mr Dell rejected the idea that design was not important to his company, though he accepted that it had not been a top priority when all the focus was on business customers.

"As we've gone to the consumer we've been paying quite a bit more attention to design, fashion, colours, textures and materials."

A decade ago, Steve Jobs of Apple criticised Dell for making what he described as "beige boxes".

But Michael Dell said of his current range of computers: "We actually make them in any colour - whatever colour you like."

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