For the most part, people post on forums with problems, not successes. It would appear problems are wide spread while within the confines of a forum. I just received my new XPS 630i on Friday 6/20, and I am having a replacement sent already, ordered on 6/24. My machine "failed" out of the box, or at least tech support over the phone could not figure out the problem and decidied since I was within the 21 days it was easier to get a new one.
Statistics is not difficult - you just need some information. For example, as of today, is there "public" information as to how many 630 systems have been shipped from Dell since inception, and how many systems have been returned to Dell? To me, a returned system would be the first sign of "failure" but not necessarily the complete story. Logging support call counts wouldn't necessarily tell you anything, as many things can be resolved over the phone and in the end could be user issues. I read interviews where Dell people state they see low failure rates. Please - give me some real stats to see, not just heresay.
In short, the vast, vast majority of manufacturers in any sector would never release data on failure rates. Take auto makers - from warranty returns they know exactly what their failure rate is, which components fail, and how often. Do they share this with customers? No. That's why JD Power have a business, and all the other consumer advisory and survey groups. The same applies in every other sector.
You can tell from the forums that the 630 has gone badly wrong for Dell in terms of reputation around here, but what you can't tell, and they are most unlikely to release is the hard data. HP, Acer, Lenovo etc would love that! If Dell do come up with anything, be suspicious - is that the Dell average failure rate, the XPS average failure rate, the 630 failure rate? Is it warranty returns or 21 days sales returns? Over what period? You mentions calls aren't necessarily failures, but what other measure do you have of what the customer thinks? If you call Dell, and they say that your malfunction is a normal performance, and they won't fix it, is that a failure, or failure free "user issue"?
Not much help, but just to say don't get your hopes up!
I don't know failure rates per model, but several years ago I worked at Radio Shack and during training they told us to prepare for unhappy customers. Why? Well, they said that according to stats, 1 of every 5 electronic items sold would fail within the first 90 days or the warranty period.....1 of every 20 would fail right out of the box.
That's 25% folks! That's 5 of 20 failing....but take into account that this includes all failures. Some that can be simply fixed by replacing a power cord, or a battery or what have you. But they counted all products that were returned within a time frame that needed some form of repair to get it functioning properly again.
And although these numbers are made up, you could have fun by assuming. Which you shouldn't do, but just for fun assume that 25% of all computers that Dell sells will fail. Then figure if 15% of their total sales belong to the 630. THen you can take the 15% of 100% is 1/6th. So figure that 1/6th of the 25% are 630 failures which is about 4%....which is about 3% higher than what Dell is estimating.
I THINK! I wasn't very good in math.
2 XPS 420's, Quad 2.4ghz, 8800GT and 9800GTX, 3gigs RAM (Vista Home)
2 Inspiron 1720's, 2.0 and 2.5 gig processors, 2 and 4 gigs RAM, 8400GM and 8600GT cards (Vista Home and Ultimate)
1 E1705, 2.0 processor, 2 gigs RAM 7900GS. (Vista Home)
2 Mini 9's, Black and Cherry Red......(Windows XP) Love The Mini!!!!!
Well, net average margin before taxes was about 9.3% for Dell in it's most recent quarterly results, but that's overall - all the profit actually come from the commercial business. Operating income (what's left over after paying your operating costs) for the global consumer segment was a measly 1.2% - and that was improved on previous results.
Typical warranty costs for a PC maker appear to be about 3-4% of revenues, and with operating income so small, the most modest change in warranty expense can easily wipe out the tiny profit. Looking at the figures, I'm grateful that Dell appear to have sold me a machine at cost, but equally I don't understand why they continue to sell to consumers! We moan about the Indian tech support, but I think that we can see why they need to do this. The minor disaster over the 630 is exactly the sort of thing that kills margin, and the tragedy is that much of this appears to be "not working as advertised", accompanied by suspect software, rather than a hardware problem as such.
The segment that the XPS line is aimed at seemed attractive to Dell, because these buyers buy more kit and pay higher margins. Unfortunately the machines are more complex, the buyers more demanding, and worst of all, we tinker and fiddle. That exposes issues that simply wouldn't be found by most of the buyers of the vanilla ranges. We also want upgradeable (ie complex, semi-future proof) desktop machines, and desktops are already much worse from a commercial perspective than laptops - laptops are more reliable, a much faster growing segment, and more profitable to boot.
You probably saw recent press and web speculation that Dell were considering killing off the XPS line (ie you buy a vanilla Dell PC, or you go to Alienware - or the competition). I believe that has officially been denied (meaning nothing) but I would not be at all surprised if the XPS line was in future merged into the Alienware business (as a sort of Alienware Lite range), because they presumably have expertise of creating and supporting complex, performance orientated machines. That would need to be done carefully to avoid cannibalising Alienware's revenues, but it is feasible.
The other option is to improve the margin on consumer desktop machines. That means higher prices (would the market support that?), or lower production cost (not much room there!), or lower operating costs. That's where they say there going, hence the 000's of layoffs and business changes. Support is already outsourced to the cheapest location on the planet, and that means the one remaining big expense area is warranty. Unfortunately, reducing your warranty costs usually comes down to building simpler machines, and that isn't what XPS buyers want.
There are some things they might do to lower costs and reduce complexity on XPS - drop the RAID controllers, which increase chip count, cost, and system complexity for no real world speed advantage. Standardise on an on board XFi sound solution (I reckon most XPS buyer choose this an XFi as an add on card, so Dell have built the existing on-board solution for no purpose, increasing complexity and cost again), what about building the RAM onto the mainboard? Or only having two RAM slots (and standardise at 4Gb for the 32 bit machines, so the lack of upgrade doesn't matter).
I don't know, that's enough rambling off topic!