Dell seeks Australian growth from consumers and education

PC giant Dell hopes a renewed focus on consumers and education buyers will allow it to claim the top spot in Australia's PC market from long-time rival Hewlett-Packard."We're very pleased with the business here, [but] we're still number two, so we've got more we can do," CEO Kevin Rollins told reporters during a press conference held as part of a brief trip down under.

PC giant Dell hopes a renewed focus on consumers and education buyers will allow it to claim the top spot in Australia's PC market from long-time rival Hewlett-Packard.

"We're very pleased with the business here, [but] we're still number two, so we've got more we can do," CEO Kevin Rollins told reporters during a press conference held as part of a brief trip down under.

According to IDC's second-quarter figures, Dell has 12.5 percent of the total Australian market. HP ranks first with 20.6 percent, while Acer, IBM and Toshiba round out the top five. Rollins wants to achieve market penetration comparable to the US, where Dell has 33 percent of the market. He described HP as a "spirited competitor", while conceding that Australia's traditionally channel-centric market might be a tough nut for Dell to crack.

During his whistle-stop tour, Rollins has hosted CIO and CEO briefings, as well as squeezing in a number of targeted customer visits, including education departments and the NSW government.

Despite perceptions that Dell's main market is individual consumers, 85 per cent of its global sales come from the corporate and government sector, Rollins said. Regional expansion will rely on increased penetration in that space and also growth in consumer purchases. Sales of consumer devices such as plasma displays could eventually be a billion dollar business for Dell, he predicted, but for now that segment is still a "second-tier" activity for the company.

Contradicting the widespread belief that PCs are now a mature market, Rollins postulated further expansion for the overall sector. "We're still fairly early and fairly nascent in the overall growth potential of this industry," he said.

Dell has rejected the notion that developing countries will need current PC technology to be simplified to achieve acceptable price points, a concept Microsoft has been exploring with stripped-down versions of Windows for some Asian countries. "If you reduce the amount of technology so you can reduce the price, people don't like it," Rollins said. "Developing economies don't want [older] technologies."

Rollins also defended Dell's use of call centres and manufacturing facilities in low-waged Asian countries such as India, arguing that hiring staff in those countries was essential if the company was to sell in those markets. "We believe in all-shoring, not just off-shoring," he said.

Rollins took over the role of CEO and president last July, although founder Michael Dell remains a powerful influence within the company in his role as chairman.

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