When I wrote about the recession's impact on Web 2.0 back in November, I included a quote from Gartner analyst Adam Sarner, who said Web 2.0 would emerge as a true differentiator, separating companies that continued to rely on traditional customer communications channels from those connecting with customers via social applications.
PC maker Dell was an early leader in connecting with customers via new channels. The company has offered online forums, where customers help each other with support issues, since the early 1990s. It was also early on the corporate blog curve, launching the Direct to Dell blog in 2006. Its IdeaStorm is often hailed as an example of a successful customer community. Earlier this month, it opened the Dell Download Store, which attempts to translate the success of its much-vaunted direct sales model from hardware to software by allowing small business users to directly download software titles and manage licensing. And it just announced a plan to offer weekly specials to its Twitter followers (who number 12,000 or so, according to InformationWeek).
So has any of this helped Dell's financial performance? Not so much. As MarketWatch reports, its stock slid 31 cents to $9.49 after a JP Morgan Chase analyst lowered his rating from neutral to underweight. The analyst, Mark Moskowitz, mentioned Dell's high PC exposure as the primary knock against the company.
While Dell recently reshuffled senior management and reorganized its business units into three primary customer units, IT Business Edge blogger Art Cole writes that Dell still appears to have too many future bets riding on hardware and is not paying enough attention to strong trends like virtualization and cloud computing. Dell is reportedly preparing to enter at least one red hot market with a smartphone.