Jobs vs. Dell in Dueling Trade Show Keynotes
By most measures, Apple Computer Inc.'s Steve Jobs famous
unveilings in front of staunch loyalists would be a tough act to
follow. Imagine then, going head-to-head with the legendary CEO.
That's what Michael Dell, chairman of Dell Inc. and a legend himself,
was up against Tuesday.
The two influential leaders delivered keynotes simultaneously --
Jobs at the Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco and Dell
at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The timing was coincidental, but the juxtaposition also partly
reflected how much the world is enthralled with Apple's products and
innovations even though Round Rock, Texas-based Dell has sold
millions more computers globally and more than any other PC maker.
The auditorium hosting Jobs' keynote held 4,000 people and still
wasn't large enough. Given the sold-out crowd, many more were sitting
cross-legged and kneeling in the aisles with rapt attention as Jobs,
always the consummate showman, joked with the audience and debuted a
highly anticipated cell phone and set-top box, which he called
The ballroom hosting Dell's keynote also had a capacity of 4,000
people but was barely half full. (Microsoft Corp.'s Bill Gates, who
delivered the CES kickoff keynote there Sunday night, was sold out.)
To be fair, Dell was also competing for attention against all the
latest and greatest gadgets on display at CES, the largest tech
convention in the world. The event ends Thursday.
But even across the sprawling CES show floors, one did not need to
walk very far between booths before seeing yet another accessory or
product capitalizing on the phenomenon of Apple's iPod media player.
As a co-founder of Apple, Jobs has always been considered a leader
of a cult of sorts, a loyal group of Macintosh fans, and anyone in
his presence is subject to his "reality distortion field."
Windows-based PC users, on the other hand, are typically not as
fanatical about their machines.
But the success of the iPod player, introduced in 2001, and the
popularity of its groundbreaking iTunes Music Store has cast Apple
deeper into the mainstream. The spotlight on the company's creations
is stronger than ever. Many electronics companies have added Apple
into their realm of rivals to watch.
Apple on Tuesday even announced how it is officially removing the
word "Computer" from its company name, changing it to Apple
Inc., to reflect its wider focus on consumer electronics.
Before Jobs' keynote, the expected introduction of an Apple TV
product that would let users easily watch their downloaded movies on
a television was already causing a stir.
"Companies tell me privately they are concerned that if Apple
could get this right with the ease-of-use and quality of service,
that Apple could do for home media what they did with the iPod and be
the leading player overnight," said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with
tech consulting firm Creative Strategies.
Apple did introduce the TV product Tuesday, as well as its first
own cell phone.
Dell, meanwhile, introduced a new environmental "Plant a Tree
for Me" program in which it offered to plant a tree for every PC
sold. It also challenged the industry to follow its lead with a free
recycling program and introduced some new computing products and
One person in the audience, Mark Parisi, said he liked seeing the
products Dell introduced but he also was eager to leave the hall to
get to some Internet access to find out what Apple had announced.
The relentless rumor mill around Apple's products had built
incredible hype. The CNN television network was even airing a related
segment hours before Jobs' speech, amid other news on the war in
Apple's own marketing efforts are notorious. And it has no shame
when it comes to self-promotion. A week before Macworld, Cupertino,
Calif.-based Apple changed the front of its company Web site to a
dramatic backlit Apple logo with a teaser: "The first 30 years
was just the beginning. Welcome to 2007."
Dell's environmental news on Tuesday also aims to spark world
In an interview after his speech, Dell said he wasn't worried
about his company's news getting overshadowed by the media attention
"I think our announcements are going to get the recognition
they deserve," he said.
The two trade shows are booked years in advance. CES typically
begins the first week of January, and Macworld the second week. Often
in the past, the tail end of CES coincides with the beginning of
Macworld. But this year, Jobs' opening keynote landed on the second
day of CES.
Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of the Consumer
Electronics Association, said the organization decided many years ago
to start pushing down the opening date of CES to allow its thousands
of exhibitors more breathing room following the New Year.
Shapiro said the association has invited Jobs to deliver a keynote
at CES in the past.
"Steve Jobs turned it down," Shapiro said, "but he
said he'd be happy to come if we change the date."