Dell moves to the mobile beat

Summary:As the PC maker heads into smartphones and more deeply into IT services, CEO Michael Dell talks about what businesses want from a notebook and the importance of the network

As desktop sales continue to fall in Europe, PC maker Dell has said it will launch its first smartphone in China. In addition, the company is looking to strengthen the services side of its business by buying Perot. ZDNet UK caught up with chief executive Michael Dell at the FireGlobal conference in Seattle last week to talk about how he sees the impact of mobility on business PCs and networks.

Q: Dell's first smartphone is for China; when will you have something for the western market?
A: There's a big change happening, with the internet in your pocket and platforms to deliver it. There are a lot of telcos in the world, but the largest cellular provider is China Mobile. We have a very good relationship with them; over half the netbooks they sell today are Dells. OMS is their Android derivative, and we've developed an OMS smartphone that's kind of a starting point for us.

You'll probably see some products in the US next year that will be family members. They won't run OMS, but they will be Android. There could even be other platforms, as we're seeing open platforms emerging that are very similar to how other businesses we participate in work.

You've said the netbook experience can be disappointing for a business user, but beyond the bigger screen size, what really matters for notebooks in business terms?
Mobility is absolutely the theme. But let's not forget that if you want the least expensive computer, you buy a desktop. If you want the most powerful computer, you would also buy a desktop. I think the desktop market continues to get cannibalised by mobile — in particular as we go to LTE and 4G. You'll want to take your data with you anywhere you go.

There are businesses with 150,000 people, and you've got all these Ethernet ports — you've got to have all these ports all over the building, so people can plug in. And then there's Wi-Fi, then you've got the phones on a separate network, maybe you're doing VoIP, maybe starting to do video conferencing or using unified communications...

So with these new networks, you've got your notebook and it's got this high-speed connection from the mobile network, and it's got a high-definition camera. You don't need any Ethernet ports, you don't need the network, you don't need the phone. It's even got GPS. You can work anywhere.

There's one customer, a huge humongous bank: 50 percent of its employees don't have physical offices. They work from their home, they go to an office, and sometimes they share spaces. It's the whole idea of being connected anywhere.

What you say to the IT guy is that your job is a whole lot simpler. It's not a product; it's a service you subscribe to. If the notebook breaks, you get another one, and all the data is backed up in the cloud.

We're in the process of buying Perot Systems to take our solution capability further. We're seeing some interesting things...

Topics: Mobility

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Born on the Channel Island of Jersey, Simon moved to the UK to attend the University of Bath where he studied electrical and electronic engineering. Since then a varied career has included being part of the team building the world's first solid state 30KW HF radio transmitter, writing electromagnetic modelling software for railguns, and t... Full Bio

About

Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

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