Those focused on the two 10-inch tablets Dell previewed at a launch event in San Francisco on Tuesday were missing the point. At the event, Dell released a massive number of new products to help the enterprise better cope with the onslaught of consumer technologies entering the workplace.
Dell unveiled a major renovation of its enterprise-targeted laptop, desktop and workstation computers Tuesday but in doing so, combined the features that attract consumer users with the demands of enterprise IT. Included are enhancements in tools used for workplace collaboration such as with Microsoft's SharePoint and Lync unified communications platforms.
Dell executives unveiled 39 coming new products, including a revamped line of seven Dell Latitude laptops, a new convertible laptop, four Dell OptiPlex desktop computers, a Dell Precision workstation and two new Precision mobile workstations. The Dell strategy is to marry the security and management control enterprise IT managers demand, with consumer-oriented technology today's knowledge workers grew up with and depend on, said Steve Lalla, vice president and general manager of Dell's commercial client products group.
"Workers have a new impact on IT because they grew up with it," Lalla said. Part of that strategy is designing for the collaboration platforms coming into the workplace like Microsoft Lync and SharePoint, that incorporate social media, instant messaging, video and Web conferencing in order to get work done.
"Collaboration is what we all do every day and we all grew up doing it in our personal lives," he said. As such, the new laptops include improved microphones, speakers and higher resolution Web cameras for conferencing.
Although Dell shared research from IDC stating that by 2013 one-third of the work force will be mobile, meaning two-thirds of them will still be working from an office, so desktop and workstations remain an important part of enterprise IT.
"Rumors of the death of the PC are greatly exaggerated," said Ricard Echevarria, vice president of Intel's Architecture Group, borrowing a phrase from Mark Twain. The new Latitude laptops will run Intel 2nd generation Core processors, that the OptiPlex desktops will run New Intel vPro processors and that the Precision workstations will run Intel Core and Xeon processors. Despite the fact that laptops are broadly outselling desktops in the market, he said businesses still buy thousands of desktop and workstation computers for their offices and factories, he said.
"The PC is at the center of the business environment," Echevarria said.
His remarks seem reminiscent of those from Dell CEO Michael Dell who, in the same city last year said the smartphone would never replace the PC. They'd better not. Dell's Venue and Venue Pro smartphones, running the still-finding-a-market Windows Phone 7 operating system, merited only a passing reference at Tuesday's event.
Dell's announcements do recognize the continuing importance of the Microsoft Windows 7 desktop OS in the enterprise environment. Later this year, said Lalla, Dell will be introducing a 10-inch screen tablet computer running Windows 7 designed for the enterprise user, with security and management features required by IT managers.
In combining consumer and enterprise features, Dell's lineup unveiled today "is the strongest they've had in years," said Tim Bajarin, principal at the tech research firm Creative Strategies.
"The enterprise still wants control but they have to acknowledge that their users are also consumers and that it is different than 10 years ago when we looked at the corporate market and what [the employee] did with their machine was only work-related," Bajarin said.
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