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Choose an answer to the following questions and then read the article to check your answers.

1. Dell is the

  a) most successful computer company in the world.
  b) 3rd most successful computer company in the world.
  c) 5th most successful computer company in the world.

2. Dell’s revenue last year was

  a) $23.6 million.
  b) $6.4 billion.
  c) $54.2 billion.

3. You can buy Dell’s products

  a) through the Internet and in retail outlets in the U.S.
  b) only through the internet.
  c) through the Internet and retail outlets worldwide.

Read and check

Dell was started by Michael Dell in 1984 with the idea of selling custom built computers directly to the customer. This direct business model has made Dell the world’s leading computer systems company. They design, build and customize products and services to satisfy a wide range of customer requirements; from the server, storage and professional services needs of the largest global corporations, to those of consumers at home. Revenue for the last four quarters totalled $54.2 billion and the company employs approximately 63,700 team members worldwide.

Dell’s direct business starts and ends with the customers. They have literally defined e-commerce, and they are one of the few businesses that successfully survived the e-commerce recession of the 90’s. Dell increased their share price enough last year to become the number one company in computer sales.

Dell's combination of direct sales and manufacturing-to-order means practically no inventory, and incredible success in matching products to consumer demand. Over the past five years, Dell has expanded this model beyond PCs to servers, storage and communications equipment.

“A key part of Dell's success” says Dell’s spokesman Clive Allen, is that the site offers consumers choice and control. Buyers can click through our site and assemble a computer system piece by piece, choosing components like hard drive size and processor speed based on their budgets and needs.”

“This direct contact with consumers gives Dell a competitive advantage” Allen explains, "Because we know exactly what our customers are ordering, it's a one-to-one situation. We get feedback on how our site is working so we're constantly making adjustments to it to make the experience for our customers easier."

Michael Dell is too clever to think he's intelligent enough to predict the future; he assumes that the world of IT increasingly resembles a global financial market, where the collected knowledge of all participants exceeds that of any particular business. Dell lets other companies dream up products never before imagined and risk their futures. Dell is content to ask consumers what they want and then sell it to them. It’s that simple.

Dell spends little on R&D and doesn't even pretend to be a technology innovator. Instead the company uses its influence to get early access to its partners' most innovative products and components, then uses its wonderfully sensitive market-testing machine (a combination of its web site and direct-to-consumer sales) to dictate what comes next. If new products sell, they are built to order and shipped. If they don't sell, they may never be made at all. It's perfect business theory, applied perfectly to corporate planning.

Not only did Dell’s competition help to force the Compaq and Hewlett-Packard merger in 2002, but they surely contributed to the problems at Gateway, which couldn't make money and compete with Dell’s prices. Dell was also partly responsible for IBM's decision to leave the consumer PC business in 2000. PCs may be a commodity, but what Dell really sells is the economics of connecting customers to suppliers. And it's proving more radical and harder to copy than people thought.

Despite Dell’s success, there have been few followers. For years, executives from all kinds of industries have studied Dell’s plan hoping to apply the winning formula to their own companies. "If this works for computers, it's going to work for automobiles, furniture, carpets, appliances, anything," predicted Larry Bossidy, Ex-CEO of AlliedSignal, in 1999.

Today, however, nobody outside of the computer business has successfully copied the direct plan. Many companies depend too much on their retail networks to go fully direct. In PCs, only Gateway has come close, although it could not make the model work well enough to avoid the need for retail stores and the inevitable inventory.
Compaq and HP talked a lot about doing it Dell's way but couldn't bear the pain of destroying their retail channels.

The one clear lesson from Dell is that the system only works in pure form. If you try to live in both worlds - direct as well as retail sales - you get the expense of both without the clarity of either.

So what is Dell? A one-off phenomenon, lucky enough to exploit a combination of factors that turn out to be unique to the PC industry? Or a truly explosive business model so disruptive that it can be adopted only through forcing change? Michael Dell knows the answer, but he also knows it takes a while to evolve. "These things just don't happen as fast as a lot of people predict," says Dell. "We've had a number of corporate customers who come back time and time again, and you could see them struggling with the change."

inventory = inventario
storage = almacenamiento
budgets = presupuesto
to resemble = parecerse
to exceed = superar
R&D = research and development
to ship = enviar
merger = fusión
commodity = producto, mercancía
to struggle = luchar, forcejear

Decide which of the following is not a popular collocation . Follow the example.

Example:   financial market   financial money   financial report   financial year
1.   custom built   custom put   custom made   custom designed
2.   wide range   limited range   large range   research range
3.   consumer demand   consumer needs   consumer centred   consumer merger
4.   competitive feedback   competitive advantage   competitive price   competitive product
5.   corporate planning   corporate inventory   corporate image   corporate identity
6.   retail networks   retail stores   retail global   retail sales
7.   share consumer   share option   share certificate   share price

Choose the correct collocation to complete a sentence from the text.

share price / retail networks / corporate planning / wide range
custom built / consumer demand / competitive advantage

1. They design, build and customize products and services to satisfy a of customer requirements.
2. Dell was started by Michael Dell in 1984 with the idea of selling computers directly to the customer.
3. Dell increased their enough last year to become the number one company in computer sales.
4. ...incredible success in matching products to .
5. This direct contact with consumers gives Dell a .
6. It's perfect business theory, applied perfectly to .
7. Many companies depend too much on their to go fully direct.


Listen Listen and repeat the sentences.

Read the text again and answer the questions.

1. According to Dell’s spokesman Clive Allen, Dell is successful mainly because

   a) its products are cheap.
   b) it only sells its products on the internet.
   c) it allows the customers to choose the system they want.

2. Michael Dell is

   a) happy to let other companies risk losing money in new products.
   b) trying to invent new products to sell on line.
   c) asking the customers what new products they want so that Dell can invent them.

3. If two companies merge (like Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, for example), they

   a) sell to the same retail outlets.
   b) join together and become one company.
   c) go out of business and stop trading.

4. Was Larry Bossidy correct when he said in 1999 that Dell’s direct plan is going to work for other industries?

   a) yes
   b) no

5. One requirement of Dell’s direct plan isAnswers

   a) pricing the products lower than your competitors.
   b) not having any retail channels.
   c) keeping a strict inventory.

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