Michael Dell swore he'd never open a Dell store. So what's that thing doing in NorthPark?

The Road to Dell is Paved with New Computers

Today, Dell Inc. will do the previously unthinkable: It will open a, gasp,

retail outlet in NorthPark Center

. Michael Dell always said that was never gonna happen; as

Time puts it in the current issue

, the chairman and founder of Dell "swore he would never be caught dead" opening a store, especially one that's 3,000 square feet. Why should he? The company made a fortune selling its product online and in mall kiosks--straight to the people, with no salesperson getting in the way of the customer (usually a business, probably yours) deciding what he or she wanted on his or her desktop or laptop. But, as


puts it, two things forced Dell to reconsider his business strategy:

"The first trend is the ever popular commingling of computing and entertainment in your living room," which has forced the company to offer such models as "a $3,500 desktop-notebook hybrid with a 20-in. screen and a remote, to a $2,270 gaming desktop with a swanky scarlet-and-gray exterior and high-end specs."

And, notes the magazine, "the second reason for Dell to go retail is more prosaic. For years, Dell's direct-shipment model proved especially good for selling to businesses, which generate 80% of its sales. But the business market is becoming more commoditized, and prices are in a free fall. So everyday shoppers are powering the industry's growth." Hence, everyday shoppers can walk into NorthPark and walk out with a Dell starting this morning. Well...not really: They still won't have actual computers for sale in the joint, just floor models for you to look at, touch and desperately want. It'll be just like an Apple store, only without stuff you can play with as soon as you get home. How like a PC: all of the promise, none of the instant gratification. --Robert Wilonsky

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