Michael Dell

Age: 37

Claim to fame: In 1984, Dell founded Dell Computer Corp. In 1987, the company was the first to offer next-day direct computer sales.

What he's doing now: CEO of Dell Computer in Round Rock, Texas

What is the biggest thing happening in computing today? We're pretty excited with wireless. There's still a lot to happen in business and the home to help people be constantly connected. With wireless, you are able to be connected at high speed to data. And it's more-rich media, with sound, video and those kinds of things that drive massive amounts of storage. Computing devices go everywhere.

What advances will follow this trend? Nanotechnology and communications will be in everything. All kinds of other devices will attach and link together, centered, I think, with the PC. But if you think about the user today, you've got a lot of disconnected devices that don't talk to each other, and the user has to be the integrator. Some devices, like the PDA, connect to the PC, but the phone doesn't really connect. Integration is a key coming technology. Wireless connects them all together.

Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Computer
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Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Computer
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A whole lot has to be done in ease of use. Anyone can operate a TV, and while computers are more portable, they are still not simple enough for anyone to use. That's a barrier we all need to work together to improve.

How will we interact with computers in the future? We've come a long way. We used to have punch cards, then numbers, text, colors and windows. The next innovation is basically interacting as we do with each other. Speech and plain gestures and much more natural interfaces will make computers more accessible. Speech is getting better, but it has to be pretty good to take over from a keyboard. I know it's going to happen, but it's just a question of when.

What other trends in computing will matter years from now? As we all develop great technologies, an important thing is how do you make them affordable and reliable, and how do you get them to customers all over the world? One contribution Dell has made to this industry is we've dramatically reduced the cost of reliable computing, with a high level of service. That's caused others to have to react to that. Computers are more affordable than they ever were.

Contributions to the industry don't always come from the lab. Dell has 1,400 patents and 4,000 research scientists, which is important, but business models matter, too.

What you are seeing is failed business models now, with WorldCom and some others, due to bad leadership and bad boards of directors and more. That shows that it's just as important to have a good business model to sustain success.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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