Dynamist Blog

You're Getting Some Style, Dude

The aesthetic ratchet effect has come to Dell computers, reports the A.P.'s Matt Slagle. He quotes industry analyst Roger Kay, who makes a common point: "As the market gets to be more commodity-like you need to distinguish yourself in whatever way you can."

That's inarguable, but it's not what's happening here. Dell's distinguishing characteristics are still price, customization, and quick turnaround, not design. Like USB ports or color monitors (remember when those were new?), good looks--or what Kay calls "design drama"--have simply become part of the package computer buyers expect, even in a commodity machine.

Any readers who are attending the Academy of Management meetings next month might want to check out the BPS/TIM panel, "High-tech and High-touch: Exploring the Role of Fashion and Aesthetics in Technology Markets." I'll be a discussant.

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