It wasn't too long ago when Dell was riding high on the success of its patented direct-sales model to consumers and businesses.
It boldly predicted in April last year that the computer maker would soon swell from $50 billion (£26.5 billion) in revenue to $80 billion (£42 billion).
But then the PC market slowed, profits tumbled and share prices took a hit.
Complaints began to mount about its customer service. Dell, meanwhile, continued doing what it had been doing.
Then came last week, a stretch Dell would surely rather forget.
Dell issued the largest electronics recall in US history, reported dismal second-quarter earnings and acknowledged a probe by fede ral investigators for unspecified accounting issues.
Suddenly, the world's largest PC maker is looking vulnerable instead of invincible.
So what happens next to the squeaky-clean company built on efficiency, the one that used to inspire fear in competitors with its low prices and sheer size?
It still has the ingredients for success, analysts said, but desperately needs some adjustments.
"It's not really as if disaster has struck," believes Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates. "It's just that they've had a run of bad news."
The latest streak began early last week, when Dell and the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the States issued a voluntary recall of 4.1 million notebook batteries made by Sony because they could overheat and catch fire.
Three days later, Dell said second-quarter profit fell 51 per cent, to $502 million (£265 million) from $1.02 billion (£539 million) in the same period a year ago. Sales edged up five per cent to $14.1 billion (£7.4 billion), to meet already lowered Wall Street sales and earnings per share expectations.
Dell's woes certainly seem out of place considering that last week, chief competitor Hewlett-Packard easily beat Wall Street's expectations for third-quarter profits and raised its fourth-quarter and full-year guidance.
"It's kind of what HP has just risen to, yet the perception is that HP is on the mend and Dell is in decline," said Mr Kay. "What people forget is that every day Dell is selling lots of computers to lots of people - and they're not blowing up."
Chief executive Kevin Rollins, repeating an explanation he's been delivering for a year now, again blamed overly aggressive pricing, a slowing marketplace and component prices that weren't lowering as expected.
He also assured investors that steps are being taken to remedy the problem.
For example, Dell has diverted millions to improve its customer service and has begun offering chips made by both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.
The first visible signs of trouble arose in Dell's August 2005 second-quarter earnings report, when the company's revenue came in nearly $300 million below Wall Street forecasts.
At the time, Mr Rollins blamed the shortfall on US consumers who stuck with cheap, low-end desktops and laptops instead of upgrading to pricier, more profitable models. "That just got away from us. We stumbled there, but we'll get that back in line," Mr Rollins said then.
The company stopped issuing earnings forecasts to investors, so just when Dell can turn the corner seems to be anyone's guess.
Analysts remain puzzled, if not mildly frustrated, that changes haven't happened faster.
"It's the same message that they've been talking about for a couple of quarters," said Mark Margevicius, a research director at Gartner Group. "What's up with Dell? Because we can't figure it out and it doesn't seem like they can figure it out."
In a report, analyst Cindy Shaw of Moors & Cabot said the dismal earnings had reinforced her firm's view that Dell's problems are company specific and that a turnaround will be harder and take longer than anticipated.
Part of the problem, industry observers say, has been Dell's dependence on the US market, which still accounts for the bulk of its business but has seen slowing demand for computers for years now.
In emerging markets such as China and India, meanwhile, Dell's direct sales model has struggled to gain acceptance in cultures that prefer buying from vendors instead of over the phone or on the internet.
Tweaking the model that helped Dell become the world's No. 1 PC seller would certainly help, said Shaw Wu, an analyst with American Technology Research, whose firm still rates Dell shares as a buy.
Mr Wu said Dell could learn a thing or two from Apple Computer and its success with retail stores. He said the stores had been a boon for building important, lasting customer relationships - something Dell could conceivably capitalise on too.
Though Dell is experimenting with two retail stores - one in Texas and one in New York - it's unclear what the company's long-term retail plans might be. And unlike most retail operations, shop-pers can look at Dell products but can't walk out of its store with anything.
"Just selling to a Web site, that's not going to cut it," said Mr Wu.
Company executives have painted the Securities and Exchange Commission probe, which it revealed towards the bottom of last Thursday's earnings report, as an informal investigation which began in August of 2005.
"We're complying with that informal investigation," Mr Rollins said. "That's about all we know. We don't think there are going to be any issues that are material that we're going to have to worry about."
Analysts said there weren't enough details to know if the probe is cause for concern.
And for the most part, they believe Dell can regain its past glory if it can make more changes, some of which are already under way.