AUSTIN: ONE-TIME PC FLOGGER DELL hosted its annual Dell World conference in Texas this week, and I was in town to hear what the tech giant had to say for itself, all at an interesting time too. It's just days after the firm announced some of the company's biggest ever news.
If you've not already heard, and I can't imagine you haven't, Dell landed the bombshell last week that it has purchased storage giant EMC for $67bn. It's the largest technology merger of all time, topping Avago Technologies' $37bn acquisition of Raspberry Pi chipmaker Broadcom in May.
The sale has yet to be completed, but CEO Michael Dell said on Wednesday that it highlights his ambitions for the company to become an "enterprise solutions powerhouse" to help organisations to be future-ready in terms of IT strategy.
He believes that there is no other company in a position to take on the enterprise market and offer organisations all their IT needs in the form of end-to-end enterprise solutions.
Dell has reported revenue of $900bn since its inception, and the founder of the recently private company sees new opportunities for innovation throughout the ecosystem.
Dell made all this very clear with the bundle of announcements at Dell World, in an obvious attempt to be an end-to-end enterprise solutions provider. These included a wider remit for its products, software and services across all areas of IT from the Internet of Things to servers, storage and an advanced analytics platform.
The company even announced a joint venture with Microsoft to launch a hybrid cloud service, which is quite funny considering Redmond's increasing focus on the hardware PC and tablet space with its Surface devices. It's almost as though the two companies want to beat each other at their own game.
But is Dell's increasing focus on providing an end-to-end solution for the enterprise having a detrimental effect on what enterprise customers know and expect of the firm? Dell is traditionally a PC hardware company, and it is still making some pretty impressive devices. Take the new and improved XPS line-up unveiled recently. But one thing is for sure: Dell is cutting back on this side of the business.
In one way, Dell's increased focus on the enterprise is by no means a new discovery. The firm announced in 2012 that it is no longer just a PC maker and is instead an "IT company".
However, I think there is a risk that the ambition to take on all sides of the enterprise industry could see customers that have relied on the company to provide business laptops and monitors, and more recently tablets, racks and components, for years will now lose faith in Dell.
Dell has been increasingly distancing itself from being just a hardware provider and thrust its business into the enterprise space - the move to go private being a major part of this - and from what I've seen and heard at Dell World this year, this notion is not just a slight concern. From the questions being asked in the sessions, roundtables and keynotes, to the general mutterings from attendees, this is definitely a worry, especially in regards to what the EMC deal might mean for the future of Dell PCs.
The purchase has really hit home for some people, I think. It's a huge statement from Dell that it's looking to be a dedicated one-stop shop for the enterprise, and is perhaps putting its PC business on the back burner.
Dell promised several times during the conference that it is still dedicated to the PC and will not kill it off any time soon, but I think that some customers might worry that a company spreading its butter more thinly across a wider segment of the technology industry will mean less attention paid to the areas that matter to them.
Extending the bread analogy, Philips makes good toasters but would you trust it to make good bread?
Jeffrey Clarke, Dell's vice chairman of operations and president of client solutions, would not let anyone think so. He said in a session that the PC isn't dead or stagnant, highlighting Dell's recent XPS refresh, adding that there is still innovation in the market.
Clark explained that the company's movements are about the ecosystem, and in the future we'll see new form factors and new ways to interact with computing devices.
Dell has had 11 consecutive quarters of share growth in a consolidating PC market, and Clarke added that the firm will be a consolidator, highlighting the firm's commitment to the sector.
But actions speak louder than words. And the PC was definitely overlooked at Dell World this year, leading me to believe that it's only a matter of time before Dell realises there's no value in sticking to its roots and continuing to make PCs, laptops and tablets.
Perhaps the firm will leave it to the likes of Lenovo, which is currently leading in the market, and Microsoft, which customers trust because of the Windows platform and brand recognition.
I predict that, by the time Dell World 2016 comes along, the PC will have taken a back seat altogether, if not disappeared completely, as the company focuses on where the money's at: enterprise software and the cloud. µ
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