Dell Gets Ready for the Next PC Revolution: Consumerization

“Rumors of the death of PC has been largely exaggerated,” declared Ricardo J. Echevarria, general manager of Intel’s Business Client Platform Division. “The PC will continue to be at the center of business computing, because of its ability to adapt.”

It’s no secret that PCs, desktops and laptops in particular, have been facing mounting pressure from their smaller, nimbler competitions: hand-held tablets and smart phones, a market currently dominated by Apple’s i-devices. PC maker Dell has been sizing up the competition. It singled out five top trends reshaping the future of business computing:

  • The rise of social media as a business application;
  • The blurring of work and home;
  • The emergence of new mobile devices;
  • Shifting business models that require tech-savvy employees; and
  • Changing employee expectations of corporate IT.

“How data is stored, how computing is done is changing,” noted Steve Lalla, Dell’s VP and general manager, Business Client Product Group. The five trends listed above attest to our desire “to be able to do what we do in our personal life in our professional life,” as Lalla put it. More succinctly, Dell calls it “Consumerization.”

If this is true, Dell’s Business Client Product Group has but one way to respond to it — offer consumer-friendly features in professional machines. To do otherwise — to resist the evolutionary demand to adapt — would be to precipitate the demise of business PCs.

PCs Without Borders
Thinking about outlawing your employees’ iPods, iPhones, and iPads in the name of security? You may end up doing more harm than good. “Corporate IT policies that ban the use of employee-owned devices in the name of security inadvertently create new bigger security holes as users skirt IT restrictions,” Dell pointed out (“CIO Strategies for Consumerization: The Future of Enterprise Mobile Computing,” Feb 3, 2011). Tech analyst firm Gartner noted, “Most organizations realize that they cannot stop the influx of personal devices and are looking to the post-consumerization era, seeking ways to stop managing the devices used by workers” (“Predicts 2011: Network Capacity and Consumers Impact Mobile and Wireless Technologies,” November 11, 2010).

Dell’s white paper recommends “evolving security policies to protect data in a heterogeneous device environment.” This could be a huge IT headache, because managers would have to manage devices both inside and outside the firewall, to provide what Dell describes as “boundary less security.”

Socio-Professional Computing
Facebook’s statics show that, “By the beginning of 2011, the average Facebook user spent 1,400 minutes, or 23.3 hours, on the site each month.” Unisys, an IT firm, noted in its “Consumerization of IT Benchmark Study” that “Nearly half of all iWorkers (46%) surveyed give their employers extremely low marks for the integration of consumer devices and social networks with enterprise applications.”

For hardware makers like Dell, the rise of social media demands incorporating high-quality audio-video features, a must-have in the era of Skype, WebEx, and remote communication. To resist social media is to stem the tide — you can’t win. Dell’s recommendation is to “launch enterprise applications that replicate the best aspects of consumer communication and social media within your worker community.”

Among professional design software publishers, there’s also widespread acknowledgment of the rise of mobile devices and social media. Since lightweight devices are not ideal for heavy-duty computing, companies like Autodesk looks to remote-computing functions and web-based viewing and markup applications as part of its strategy. Product lifecycle management software makers like Dassault Systemes and PTC now offer community management, data management, and collaboration applications inspired by social media.

Touchy, Feely Tablets
One behavior change brought on by the popularity of portable devices: People become more accustomed to multi-touch navigation. Apple’s i-devices taught people a new way to interact with displays. We now instinctively drag on images and program windows to expand them, or tap on links to open them. The paradigm is not fully supported or exploited by desktop and laptop makers, but Dell has begun incorporating many such features into its latest machines.

New Machines
Last week, Intel’s Echevarria, Dell’s Lalla, and their colleagues were in San Francisco, California, to unveil Dell’s new business-class machines. The event, held at Hotel Vitale by the Embarcadero, was “the biggest product refresh in the history of Dell,” according to Lalla.

Perhaps the segment best-positioned to take advantage of Consumerization is the company’s new smart phones and tablets (most of them running Android and Windows Mobile) and convertible PC tablets (running Windows 7). Dell’s Streak 7, a camera-equipped mobile device with 7-inch multi-touch display, is powered by NVIDIA’s ARM and Tegra T20 processors, running Google Android OS. Dell Venue, a slide phone with multi-touch enabled 4.1-inch display, runs Windows 7 and is equipped with a 5-Megapixel built-in camera. Dell Inspiron Duo, powered by dual-core Intel Atom N550, comes with a 10.1-inch HD display with multi-touch function.

For more, watch product photos in the slide show below:

Find more photos like this on DE Exchange