Dell, Michael S.

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DELL, MICHAEL S. (1965– ), U.S. computer entrepreneur. Born in Houston, Texas, Dell attended the University of Texas, intending to become a physician; instead, he became the dormitory millionaire. In 1984, with $1,000, Dell started a computer company called pc's Limited in his dormitory room. The company became successful enough for Dell to drop out of college at 19 to run the business full-time. Dell's idea was to sell computers directly to the consumer without going through retailers, and in the process design and deliver a computer based upon the customer's own specifications. Previously, buying a computer invariably involved a middleman. In addition to customization, Dell provided the industry's first support and service program. Today, the Dell corporation provides products and services in various information-technology and Internet-related sectors. Building to order, Dell has almost no inventory in computers or components, selling and delivering the completed pc units directly to consumers.

Dell is considered the most profitable pc manufacturer in the world, with sales of $35 billion and profits of $2 billion in 2002. Dell has 46,000 employees in more than 170 countries around the world. Dell is known for its ability to drive down prices and the company has a hold over its vendors. In addition, Dell has been able to leverage the power of the Internet to great advantage because it is the largest supplier of pcs over the Internet. Michael Dell ranks among the five wealthiest individuals in the United States. In 1999 Dell wrote Direct From Dell: Strategies That Revolutionized an Industry, which details the story of the rise of the company and the strategies he has refined that apply to all businesses.

Dell, through the foundation that bears his and his wife's name, has become active in philanthropy. One of their earliest gifts was $13 million toward building a new Austin (Texas) Museum of Art. The Dells gave $1 million for a new radiology center at the Children's Hospital of Austin, and the Dell Discovery Center at the Austin Children's Museum reflects the Dells' interests in children's causes. He also gave 40 acres, worth $2.5 million, in 1994 to the Jewish Federation of Austin as a site for a Jewish community center which bears his name.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]