I used a Dell laptop for 10 years, but why I did not replace it with a Dell
My post is not just a eulogy to my Dell D520 Laptop, it is also a sober reminder that with time, customer needs and customer experience change.
Update: In January 2019, we DID buy a new laptop for my wife, and it was a Dell. Promptly replaced the operating system with Linux Mint though.
Nearly ten years ago, I bought a Dell Latitude D520. Little did I know back then that it would become my workhorse for a decade.
At nearly 650 US Dollars, it was a good deal, the hardware was decent, and it came with the then prevalent operating system, Windows XP. I opted for a RAM upgrade, so I had a massive 2.5 GB of RAM. I used the laptop for a variety of purposes. For the first year, I took practice tests for GMAT, wrote my application essays, and sent off my applications. In 2008, I contacted recruiters in India when I planned to move back home. Around Mid-2009 it was time for ‘second wind’ of applications to b-schools. In late 2009 and early 2010, I used to spend hours chatting and emailing with my then finance and now wife. This laptop was with me during my MBA, when I wrote my first book NRI:Now, Returned to India; and most recently, when I co-founded Kamakshi Media and launched not one, not two, but three podcasts (audio shows, for those of you who are not familiar with that term). They are: MyKitaab — Podcast on book publishing in India, Digital PowWow, and most recently, Baalgatha: classic children’s stories from India and around the world.
Over the past ten years, I only had to replace the battery twice. During this period, I also installed every incarnation of Windows from XP and beyond the the hardware could support, every possible distribution of Linux, and spent countless hours learning the ropes of writing a book and laying the foundation for my startup in the digital media space. Recording 100 episodes and editing them, preparing the show notes, preparing the cover art and infographics, was all done on this machine.
For an entrepreneur operating his startup out of his living room, this machine was a dream come true. It was paid off for, it ran well, had minimal issues (yes, it would heat up, the battery barely lasted an hour, and the screen had a green streak on it), but I could set up my business at nearly zero hardware cost. The downside was that while some applications refused to work on this aged 32 bit system, others would crawl.In other words, my productivity was getting impacted significantly.
Last week, I formally retired this laptop and opted for a Macbook Pro. As a happy customer for nearly ten years, Dell should have been my first choice, but it was not. And the reason is simple- with changing times, customer needs change. And Dell’s newer laptops just don’t make the cut for me.
My decision to buy an Apple device was based on two factors: what does the business need, and how much time I can spend on hardware issues. I do not wish to get into the business requirements- particularly for those of you in the creative space, my decision need not be justified. Let us look at the second reason.
Over the past five years since, I had used three different laptops, all of them happened to be Dell machines. And all of them failed me at one point or the other. One needed to be replaced completely- the motherboard was fried within one year of use. The other needed a memory upgrade- apparently, 4 GB of RAM was not enough for regular corporate use. The hard drive of the third needed to be replaced. These were risks that I could not take, because I simply did not have time to spend chasing the support teams and run behind repairs.
While I would like to thank Dell for making an excellent laptop a decade ago, I would also like to thank them for helping me decide what NOT to buy. And that is the unfortunate side of customer loyalty.
Over the weekend, my wife and I debated on what to do with the D520- I wanted to keep it for old times’ sake, she wanted to keep one less piece of hardware in the house. The debate goes on, but we both agree on one thing. The D520 is was the best laptop we have ever owned so far. I hope that record will be broken in the times to come.
“Thank you Dell, your laptop served me well.”