[“Edges 5”. Part of “The Edges” Series. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
Reading this piece about Dell’s new mini-computer, halfway through the PR schpiel I YET AGAIN came across them using the term, “Digital Nomad”.
With a starting weight of 2.28 lbs.[i], digital nomads will value the Inspiron Mini’s durable design, with sealed keyboard and reliable solid state drive (SSD) memory storage. A bright 8.9‑inch glossy LED display (1024×600) presents most web pages with no left-right scrolling, and the keypads are large and easy to navigate.
About the same time that I first started seeing this term being used a lot from them, their Digital Nomads blog appeared on the scene. So I guessed something was up. I figured the blog is not just some crazy side project from some renegade Dell employees, this fits in to a much larger corporate strategy. Like I said in a recent blog post:
The Digital Nomads blog is what I call “indirect marketing”. People aren’t supposed to read it and go, “My, what a lovely blog. I think I’ll go out and buy me a couple of brand new Dell laptops”. This is more of an “Alignment” play. In other words, by “aligning” themselves more with the digital-nomad crowd, they hope it’ll help them in time to create products that are more compelling and relevant to them. If you were in the computer business, you’d want to have the same alignment. “The Porous Membrane” etc. The good news is, Alignment plays can be extremely effective. The bad news is, they take FOREVER to gather momentum.
So the last time I was in Round Rock visiting their bright & shiny offices, I asked around. My hunch seems to have been proved correct. This is the alignment they’re going after. I was also delightfully surprised to learn that they have no intention of trademarking, or attempting to trademark the phrase, “Digital Nomad”. They want to be aligned with it; they don’t want to “own” it. A small distinction, but a noteworthy one. To try to own it would rob the idea of all its meaning and power.
Yeah, I know, “Digital Nomad” is not the only term one can use to describe a web-enabled worker. There are others. There are also differences of opinion as to what “Digital Nomad” actually means. Are we talking mere tele-commuters, or is there some even bigger sociological trend going on? Depends who you ask. I’ve been a blogger and a digital nomad long enough to know how blurry the edges get sometimes. Rather than worry about THE definitive semantics, frankly, I’d rather worry about how to use this brave new world in order to make money, more quickly and easily than the generation before me.
In conclusion: Dell wants to align itself with the “Digital Nomad” crowd. Groovy. If I were them I’d do the same.
OK, fine. So now the next question is, what needs to happen to make all this more likely? Do they carry on doing what they’ve always done, or is there some FUNDAMENTAL change in their culture going to be required? And if so, how costly and painful will that be for their people, their customers and their shareholders? I’m not saying they’re necessarily doing anything wrong so far, I’m just curious, that’s all. Change is the only constant etc.
[ON A MORE PERSONAL NOTE:] Over the last few weeks I’ve been having a grand ol’ time getting to know the company better. So far it’s been an interesting experience. I’ve met some really smart, passionate people. The only problem for me initially has been, they’re a big company; it’s hard for somebody new on the scene to know where to look to find the interesting stories going on. Design? Tech? Marketing? Operations? Finance? Who’s making the secret sauce?
But then again, I’ve been a digital nomad for most of the last decade. So suddenly, with their Digital-Nomad-Alignment schtick, I see a glaringly obvious fit between my interests and theirs. Problem solved. Easy. Rock on.