PC Back from the Dead: Jeff Clarke, Dell Technologies & the Zombie PC Apocalypse


I’m at DellEMC World this week in Austin and there have been a number of executives speaking to us to start off the event.  Jeff Clarke is the Vice Chairman of Dell and he is one of the more energetic speakers in the industry.  He is tied to what many of us think of as the heart of Dell, their client business.  I think he is up there to say that if PCs are dead then we are effectively facing Zombie PC Apocalypse because Dell is growing share, revenue, and profit in this segment.  But the Zombie idea (my concept not his) is because of the increasing risk of malware and ever more prevalent security problems, if unprotected your PC will be increasingly controlled by someone or something else, a becoming an increasingly scary digital Zombie. 

He opened not talking about new hardware, but in talking to the massive increase in digital threats in the market and introducing a new security package binding RSA, Mozy, and VMware AirWatch targeting not only the threat but showcasing how quickly the combined company has been able to come together to create unique solutions.   This also showcases what a big problem security has become for the technology segment. 

But he then moved into PC hardware and this clearly remains his (and my) first love, let’s talk about some of the products (I should point out I’m writing this on an Alienware 13” gaming notebook with an OLED display and it is marvelous).  

Dell Products

Tablets displacing PCs was – and is – hogwash.  He opened the hardware segment pointing out that the whole idea that tablets were going to take over the world didn’t turn out to be true.  His opening product was the new Latitude 13”, which uses carbon fiber to keep its weight down and is based on their XPS13, which has won more awards than any other Dell product.   It is interesting to note that they were able to get the size of the 13” product down to a size that is in line with competitors’ 11” offering.

He then moved to their 43” display (I have one of these and it is marvelous), which can take four PCs and put all the related displays on one screen.  I’ve actually gamed on this thing, and it will take a TiVo feed so I can watch news programs I’ve taped while I’m working.   The only downside is it is so big I can no longer see out my office window – who needs a view anyway?

                Image via Bigstock

Clarke then brought one of the founders of Alienware on the stage.  This is as much a showcase for Dell’s ability to buy a company and keep it intact as it is for Alienware.   Many may not know this but they were the first to ship a water cooled gaming machine, and the first to ship a pure gaming notebook.  They have a display on the show floor with their notebooks coming out the back of a heavily modified truck.  Clarke asked what was new and he said virtual teleportation.  I travel a lot and have grown to hate it so suddenly, I was all ears. 

This is an interesting blend of entertainment and business, and the ability to not only to virtually travel to existing places but to travel to places that don’t physically exist.  I’ve seen this power myself when it comes to home or office design allowing the buyer to see and experience a home or building before it is even started, saving a ton of money on avoidable change orders and modifications.   This is also important in training and the example was ESI, which uses VR to train mechanics on how to work on a variety of vehicles without actually having to have the vehicles in the related school.  This is tied to an AR solution when you have to actually do the job, and it walks you through the repair.  

Other Client Thoughts

Opening this morning I got a chance to see the whole host of shipping laptops and monitors, and it is a daunting set.  It was particularly hard not to drool over both the laptops and desktops though it was really hard not to want the truck they were showcasing them in.  I find now that I live in Bend, Oregon my taste is moving from high powered cars to trucks much to the dismay of my wife who is threatening to send me back to Silicon Valley to get reprogrammed. 

Wrapping Up:  The Client Remains Important

With all of the pressure on companies to get away from clients, which is where most of us live, it is refreshing to see what is now the largest technology company in the world recommit to a platform we all touch.  Yes, servers and cloud services are important but we get to them through the products we still buy and use.  Dell Technologies intends to continue to drive the desktop and Jeff Clarke, the second most powerful person at Dell, is clearly committed to those of us that continue to work and play on PCs.  Yes, they are also doing interesting things with thin clients, IoT, and could but many of us still love our PCs and Dell remains committed to making sure our love isn’t misplaced and I see that as a good thing. 

Given the increasing threats we are facing I also feel better that they started with security because no matter how attractive or powerful our PCs are, we need them to be secure, otherwise we are likely to lose the ability to afford them.  

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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