Dell promises to continue doubling down on PCs

Dell commercial boss Kirk Schell reiterated Dell's commitment to the space and discussed some ways Dell intends to differentiate itself from the competition.

Dell Latitude 13

The latest Dell Latitude 7370

The PC market continues to slide. Both Gartner and IDC just reported significant global shipment drops in Q1 – 11.5 per cent says IDC, 9.5 according to Gartner. Dell fared somewhat better than Lenovo and HP, dropping only 0.4 per cent globally. Dell sees other positive things in the numbers. More importantly for the long term, however, Dell has reinforced its commitment to the PC market for the long term, even in the face of the imminent merger with EMC, which will make the PC and other endpoint business a relatively smaller piece of the overall pie. For the commercial market specifically, Dell has had recent success in importing features from its premium consumer XPS line into its commercial Latitudes, and expects to see growth there from this continuing strategy.

Dell Canada President Kevin Peesker emphasized at the Dell Power To Do More event in Toronto on Wednesday that Dell has no intention of emulating HP in the wake of the EMC merger and either stripping off the PC business or getting out of it entirely. Kirk Schell, Dell’s Vice President Commercial Product Marketing, PC Product Group, who has run their commercial PC business since 2010, emphasized the importance of this market to the company.

“Commercial PCs are a key part of our strategy for the foreseeable future,” Schell said. He took solace even in Q1’s mediocre shipment numbers.

“We still grew share twice as fast as any major competitor,” he said. “We took back the number one position in the U.S. market, and we still expect big things from Windows 10 adoption.” He also noted the latest stats show a continuation of a longer term trend – that with the exceptions of Apple and ASUS, the big losers continue to be the smaller players.

“HP, Lenovo and us have 50 per cent of the PC market, and we will be 75 per cent by 2020,” Schell said. “Dell will continue to grow and continue to be one of the consolidators. We believe there are 1.8 billion installed PCs in the world and 600 million up are four years old or older. We always have to be mindful of the size of the market. Device innovation means it is time to refresh, and research shows people are most productive on a personal computer, not on a device with a small screen. At some point, you want a comfortable ergonomic workspace, and doing things on a small screen isn’t practical. This is a long game for us.”

Like the other big OEMs, Dell has been leveraging features from its consumer PC designs into its commercial notebooks, and took the step this year of announcing the refresh of its Latitude business line at CES in January. Latitude has long had a reputation as a ‘serious’ but dull business product, without a lot of flash and dash. Dell has added design elements from its higher-end XPS consumer line to the Latitude to change this perception.

“We have always sold a large percentage of the XPS into commercial accounts,” Schell said. “When we launched XPS 13 last year, people said they liked the design and execution, and the way it felt. Commercial customers said they wanted a few things that weren’t in XPS 13, however, so we did this with the new Latitude. This includes full security suites with SmartCard, security readers, and data encryption, a full management suite for IT managers, and our ProSupport Plus package.”

Consumer features are now a key part of the commercial lineup.

“We have had to become much more focused on design in the endpoint because people want the latest and greatest in the commercial space,” Schell said. “Our Infinity edge display [the small bezel first introduced in the XPS 13] is now available in the Latitude. We have also hired a group of people to do accessory development so that instead of you having to figure out where to get things like bags, docks, adapters and power companions, these have been all designed, in the same colors. You can buy them from the same rep so you don’t have to be your own VAR.”

Schell also noted Dell’s developed of a Swiss Army Knife adapter.

“As notebooks get thinner, you take the legacy ports off, so we have created one adapter that has everything that, and converts all the signals to the right type when you need them,” he said.

Both HP and Lenovo have retreated slightly on touch – something that Schell says Dell won’t be doing.

“Obviously on any convertible or detachable, touch is required, and on a traditional notebook we will continue to offer choice there,” he said. “The cost deltas are still big enough that people have to make a choice about touch. It’s not free. Another problem for work environments is that we recommend anti-glare screens, and today no one can do a touch screen and an anti-glare screen together because touch screens have glare. We would like to solve that problem.”

Schell said Dell is well positioned in both the detachable and rugged categories.

“Detachables are a growing category, and we think people are using those for general productivity,” he said. “We are the only Tier One rugged provider and we intend to win in this category.”

Schell also emphasized Dell’s focus on security, pointing to the exclusive partnership announced with next-gen security company Cylance in late 2015.

“The work we are doing on endpoint security is tangible and differentiated, and Cylance is an important part of that,” he said. “There is more to come there.”