Analysis of Product Development at Dell Computer Corporation

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ANALYSIS OF PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AT DELL COMPUTER CORPORATION Abstract Dell’s Portable Division, headed by Mark Holliday, had reached a decision point in the development of its new laptop computer. Holliday had to decide, or reach consensus on, what kind of battery Dell would put into its new line of laptop computers. It was the second try for Dell in the laptop market. The first attempt had failed due to technical problems, costing the company $20 million in development expenses alone. After the failed earlier attempt, Dell structured the development process, requiring decision points to be added. In addition, cross-functional teams were required to ensure communication among disciplines. In spite of the new development approach, the teams usually did not embrace the new process. As part of the laptop development, market research revealed a list of features that were important to customers. One of those features was battery life, which as it turns out, ranked #3 only behind price and microprocessor choice. Earlier that year, Michael Dell was meeting with a supplier when a “soon to be” battery technology known as “LiOn” was introduced to him. LiOn was chosen as the name due to the use of a lithium ion as opposed to the traditional metal hydride in the battery. The LiOn battery was expected to significantly extend the battery life between charges. The Michael Dell saw it as an opportunity to set their laptop apart from the competition by being the first to capitalize on the technology. As good as it sounded, the LiOn battery was not a sure thing. This paper discusses the decision faced by Holliday and the laptop development team.
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