Dell, BYOD, and the New Reality


Dell is positioned to be successful, just like HP. They’re hopping aboard the train Microsoft is conducting to kill BYOD. Dell just doesn’t seem to know it.

Last week, I wrote a bit about what I see as Microsoft’s opportunity to kill BYOD for at least some segment of the enterprise. +John Furrier calls it a “jump ball scenario,” and +David Floyer says it might already be too late to turn the market around.

Much like the Ghost of Christmas Future, I speak of things that may be, not virtual certainties, but as I see it, the path in front of Microsoft and their hardware partners is plain: they’re offering a known quantity to IT staff around the world – Windows on a mobile device with a user experience that doesn’t completely suck (and is considered a superior experience by some).

Once you get past the platform evangelism, intelligent people can disagree as to whether Windows 8 and the tiled interface is a superior user experience to Android and iOS. What you can’t disagree intelligently about is where the market momentum is headed for Google, Apple and Microsoft. The disruptive are currently winning, and Microsoft is scrambling for a solution.

The truth of the matter is that BYOD is a trend that was always fighting an uphill battle with IT and security teams, and Microsoft has finally passed the ammunition back to those teams who are willing to trade their employees liberty in device choice for a little security – and based on my unscientific surveys, there are quite a few.

All that not-withstanding, Dell is facing some very tough times right now with their PC division.

Jeff Clarke is Dell’s VP of Global Ops and End User Computing Solutions, and is the leader for their PC and Mobility divisions.

At the opening panel for Dell World today, he said that “This is the second time in the past 20 years where PCs have been universally in decline. Dell still believes that PC is the center of the creative process and work productivity.”

I believe he may be right on that, because he followed that statement with the qualifier: “The definition of the PC is shifting. Definitions are eroding and continuing to erode.  In the consumer sector, the trend is towards mobility. Virtualization and streaming (thin client) computing is where we’re looking [for the enterprise].”

The only problem I see with their understanding and willingness to cope with the new reality of BYOD is that BYOD isn’t working in their favor. They’re banking their success on the deployment across the enterprise of Windows 8. Even if the public starts clamoring for Windows 8 devices in the consumer sector (which they probably won’t), it isn’t going to be felt for quite a while at the hardware side.

Windows 8 is nice, but it’s strongest strength is not that it is superior to any other BYOD stack out there, but that it’s on par with the other stacks, and that there is better value in circulating to employees mobile devices that are compliant with and similarly secured to the desktop systems already in use. If that starts to become a trend, it’ll certainly sap the public’s will to go out and purchase $300-700 smartphones and tablets, which could in turn roll back the tide of the public’s flight from the traditional PC manufacturers.

If Microsoft’s strategy succeeds, Dell will be swept up with the success – though I didn’t get the impression from the panel that Dell saw what the clear path forward was. Their strategy seemed to bank on the public’s wide acceptance of Windows 8 as an OS and as a family of devices.

Not since the mid to late 90s has Microsoft had the rabid fanbase required to overcome this level of market momentum, so my money continues to be on the device manufacturers running Windows 8 who try to build sales strategies around circumventing the trend of BYOD.