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Dell: 'Code, baby, code!' - and please buy our servers

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Dreamforce 2008 "Code baby code" and more people buying servers and PCs - Dell servers and PCs, to be precise. That's Michael Dell's secret to surviving the current economic downturn.

Dell's chairman and chief executive delivered a Keynesian-style message of investment over budget cuts for customers to position for growth once the economic crisis is over. He was speaking as Gartner slashed its estimated revenues from chip sales in half.

He evoked the spirit of Joe the Plumber, totem to US presidential Republican hopefuls John McCain and Sarah Palin, to evangelize partner Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference.

"This guy Joe the plumber has been getting a lot of excitement and attention," Dell said. "I wonder: where's Joe the programmer? I think we can code our way out of this crisis - code baby code!"

Billed by Salesforce.com chief executive Marc Benioff as a visionary on a par with US four-star general and former US secretary of state Colin Powell, Dell proceeded to deliver a no-holds-barred product pitch.

The economy may be slowing but trends underlying the industry are not: One billion people expected online in the next few years, one billion laptops to be sold in five, pressures on energy consumption and - of course - an explosion in data.

"The first response in a situation like this is to stop spending and cut investing...I understand those pressures," Dell said. "Being stunned into in action is the wrong thing to do right now. Take the opportunity to make business stronger and more competitive."

Stirring stuff. And guess what? Dell's got the servers, blades, laptops, and virtualization you need. No wonder people began streaming out of the keynote hall.

To be fair, Dell isn't the first - and won't be the last - company exec to use his partner's conference podium to hawk product. Functionaries from Comcast at BEAWorld and Hewlett-Packard at Oracle’s OpenWorld have abused their hosts' hospitality in previous years.

Memo to IT companies, though: If your chief executive has been introduced as a visionary, then try to raise his sights beyond the corporate parapet to talk in inspiring or profound ways about something universal, like philanthropy or global warming. Don't just hang the standard corporate product pitch off latest trends or news. ®

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