ITXPO - Dell says he'll be ready with PC alternatives

Company announces OS streaming product today

The question that Michael Dell, the CEO and chairman of the company that bears his name, was asked twice by a Gartner analyst was also one of the most direct sent his way. Is the PC business, Dell's core business, "at risk?"

That's what Gartner analyst Mark Margevicius asked during an on-stage interview with Dell's founder at Gartner's Symposium ITxpo 2007.

Margevicius framed his questions by sweeping in all the broad, server-based trends that are sticking pins into the desktop, including virtualization, software streaming, thin clients and other alternative architectures. "Are you fearful that the PC business for Dell ... is in jeopardy?"

Not in Dell's mind.

If a user decides to move his client computing onto servers in the data center, Dell said that his company will be able to meet their need and that "in fact, we already do."

The company is pursuing what it calls a "Flexible Computing Solutions" strategy intended to address a variety of needs.

Just today, for instance, Dell said the company introduced its On-Demand Desktop Streaming product that streams the operating system and applications to a diskless desktop.

While these alternatives may take out costs for customers, "the cost really shifts" into servers and storage, he said, "and that's why it's a solution."

Dell returned as CEO of his company early this year after leaving that post to serve as chairman. But after he left the day-to-day operations at Dell in 2004, the company faced increasing pressure from rival Hewlett-Packard Co.

Since returning as CEO, Dell said a major focus was to "bring back the customer-centricity" into the company. "I think we lost some of that customer focus."

The company is also building a new consumer business, increasing its focus on emerging markets. The vendor also this year announced that it would ship Linux on a desktop. In addition, Dell said the company will soon introduce tablet computers.

Ric Rodriguez, an IT architect at a federal agency that deals with health care that he declined to identify, said he was surprised by Dell's decision to offer tablets. "In the past, they have actually ignored the whole concept," he said. But Rodriguez said he see value to tablets, especially in health care.

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