Dell takes Intel's cue on PCs, puts enterprise on top of the agenda

Dell takes Intel's cue on PCs, puts enterprise on top of the agenda

The company says it will launch a new PC-as-a-service by the end of the year

For the umpteenth time, Dell Technologies has reiterated that PCs are important to the company, and it won't quit the market.

But PCs occupied only a few minutes of CEO Michael Dell's opening keynote at Dell EMC World in Las Vegas on Monday. PCs are the engine that keep enterprises chugging, he said.

Instead, Dell spent time educating attendees about the new Dell Technologies and its products. It's been less than a year since the US$67 billion Dell-EMC merger was finalized, and a lot of focus was on answering burning questions about the company's future.

Dell did say the company would offer the PC-as-a-service worldwide by the end of the year, with more details about the program to be shared on Tuesday. HP and Microsoft are offering PC-as-a-service options, allowing customers to buy devices and support and pay on a monthly basis. That option reduces the hardware acquisition and support costs for companies.

Michael Dell started Dell as a PC company in 1984 when he was 19 years old. But today, the PC market is limited, and Dell's approach is much like Intel's, which is focusing on enterprise IT infrastructure. Dell is now focused more on server, storage, cloud, networking, and internet-of-things offerings.

The possibility of explosive growth in the PC market is remote, especially with mobile devices and tablets also being used for computing. Worldwide PC shipments will remain stuck in the 250 million to 300 million range, and most new purchases will replace existing PCs. The upgrade cycle is slowing down to about five or six years.

Research firm Gartner predicts PC shipments to touch 266 million in 2017 and 272 million in 2018, compared to 268 million in 2016. Shipments in that limited market will be shared among Lenovo, HP, Dell, Asus, Apple, Acer, and other vendors.

Dell's PC shipments grew by 6.2 percent in the first quarter of this year to 9.6 million units, according to IDC. Dell was the third largest PC maker behind HP and Lenovo and held a 15.9 percent market share. Worldwide PC shipments during the quarter totaled 60.3 million units.

Dell has come out with some amazing hardware in recent years like the XPS 13 laptop and the UltraSharp 32 UP3218K 8K monitor. Dell's Alienware is one of the top gaming PC brands, and Dell said the unit will be left alone to chase fast-growing markets like virtual reality and "artificial reality."

Further PC announcements from Dell are expected later this year, especially at the Computex trade show at the end of this month.

Dell remains the only company standing with a full stack of hardware offerings, from PCs and servers all the way down to networking gear. HP does not offer enterprise hardware like servers or storage. Lenovo ships servers, but its storage and networking offerings are weak.

Dell sees growth in the enterprise because data centers are taking on more workloads as computing moves to the cloud. Voice assistants like Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, Amazon's Alexa, and Google Assistant are processed in the cloud and delivered to users on mobile devices and PCs. Social networks, email, and video streaming are also processed on servers. New technologies like image recognition and language translation also happen on the cloud.

Dell talked about raising the digital IQ in organizations, and speeding up the digital transformation process. The company announced new PowerEdge servers and all-flash EMC storage products.

The company's other products include VMware, which provides virtualization technologies to balance server, storage, and networking operations. The Pivotal software environment provides the tools to build cloud services. The company also introduced new networking and storage products for converged infrastructures. The company also talked about putting security technologies from RSA for threat assessment at different levels of data movement.

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