Dell tunes into customer feedback for new Precision workstations

Summary:Dell is relying on the feedback of its customer base to secure the lead in the enterprise workstation PC market.

When unveiling a new quartet of Precision workstation towers, Dell is relying on tried (but sometimes true) adage: the customer knows best.

Speaking at a media event held at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco on Friday, Efrain Rovira, executive director Dell's Precision Workstation unit, asserted that Dell's Precision brand is about "the most powerful systems a customer can use to run professional applications" while being dependable and manageable depending on a customer's environment, helping engineers and architects focus on their work.

Dell's strategy for this series was driven by market and consumer insights, a segmented approach, and tailored solutions. For the end users, this means putting out machines focused on maximizing productivity and IT control integrated with security and optimized features ready for global deployment.

Kirk Schell, marketing director of Dell's business client group, also pointed out that that enterprises have evolved from a "9-to-5, local workforce to 24/7 global one."

"That means that the needs of populations and the needs of users have changed, sometimes in the course of a day," Schell said, explaining that means a computer user might want to use a tablet or a mobile workstation in the field, or a full workstation in the office.

"We don't think one tool works in every environment," Schell added.

Again focusing on the customer input here, Rovira remarked that these Intel Xeon-based workstations were developed with the mindset to look and operate like something the customers would design themselves.

"The new Precision workstation series has been redesigned from the inside out," Rovira said.

One tiny example of how Dell engineers paid to customer requests was the placement of USB 3.0 ports. Rovira noted that many customers asked for USB ports to be placed closer to the top of the workstation, making it easier for them when they have to frequently lean down to plug in USB drives and cables.

"First and foremost, we wanted a clean design," said Ken Musgrave, executive director of Dell's Experience Design Group, describing that Dell engineers also wanted the components to be accessible and easy to navigate on the inside.

The new Precision series consists of four new workstations, ranging from the entry-level T1650 for mid-range workloads and professional applications up to a machine ready for handling the production of full-length, 3D feature films.

For instance, all of new Precision workstations are equipped with various Nvidia professional graphics cards.

Rovira added that even if customers upgrade and customize the interior hardware on their own, Dell's warranty standards would still apply.

In a Q&A session with Rovira, Adam Watkins, a computer graphics supervisor at visual effects studio Pixomondo, discussed how he used Dell workstations for work on Martin Scorcese's Hugo and other films to work on all kinds of visual effects.

Watkins cited reliability as one of the absolute most critical qualities for computer workstations when doing visual effects work.

"Any slow down against that creative flow is money lost," Watkins warned.

Watkins explained that creating 3D visual effects for a movie can be the most intense uses for a workstation, with incredibly complex tasks such as shading and modeling. Thus, a workstation also needs to withstand endurance tests.

For example, on Hugo, Watkins said they started out with 1,000 shots at gigabytes of data per shot. Nowadays, film designers and engineers require workstations to be able to handle those kinds of workloads and much more.

One of the interesting design points on the higher-end Dell Precision workstations, such as the T7600 (pictured above), is that the internal drives can be swapped out, plug-and-play style, for videographers and editors on-the-go who also want to backup their work quickly.

Set to roll out in May, pricing for the new Dell Precision workstations range from $1,099 to $2,149.

Images via Dell

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Topics: Dell

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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