Monday, April 10, 2006

Kevin Rollins, president and CEO of Dell Computer, seems about as down-to-Earth as you might want to find. Saturday night saw Mr. Rollins accept an award for distinguished business leadership from the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Brigham Young University Management Society, a group of alumni and friends of the Marriott School of Business at the aforementioned BYU.

Mr. Rollins acceptance speech was preceded by a kind introduction from Richard Marriott, who rightly proclaimed Mr. Rollins - a seeming polymath who is athletic, plays piano and violin, is deeply committed to his faith and, oh, yes, runs a multi-billion dollar company that is one of the most admired on the planet - one of BYU’s most multi-faceted alums. Then came a humorous, self-deprecating video look at Mr. Rollins’ first day on the job as CEO, including taking an order over the phone and watering the plants in the headquarters lobby.

Instead of talking about computers or technology or the Internet, Mr. Rollins confined his brief remarks to a discussion of what makes people successful. He said there was no standard formula, but a combination of forces, including serendipity, that come together in each life. As with Antonio Stradivarius’ violins - the finest ever produced - some things defy scientific analysis and explanation, he explained.

Before the ceremony, I had a chance to speak briefly with Mr. Rollins, who can be as direct as he is self-effacing. Asked if, in light of last week’s news that Intel-based Macintosh computers can now run Microsoft Windows whether he’d want to run Apple Computer’s OS X on Dell hardware, he smiled and uttered one word: “Yes.”

Such forthrightness - and willingness to consider the use of OS X on his firm’s machines - echoes some comments Dell Chief Technology Officer Kevin Kettler made at the Linux World Expo last week. According to CNET News, Mr. Kettler said it was Dell’s push against Intel’s ill-starred HomeRF networking technology that made 802.11 wireless a standard for work AND home users.

Perhaps there’s more to those folks in Texas than meets the eye.

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