Q&A: The latest in the commercial PC landscape

On the heels of the latest iPad launch, there’s a great deal of discussion on the role of the tablet in the workplace and whether it can become a PC replacement. As the workforce evolves, IT decision makers have multiple factors to take into consideration when making computing decisions for an organisation. We spoke with Raza Haider, Executive Director of Dell’s Commercial PC Product Group, on the latest in the commercial PC landscape and where he sees the industry going.

Q: Talking about commercial PC trends, what are the key things your Fortune 500 customers are requesting when planning ahead for the next 5-10 years, and purchasing new technology for the enterprise?

A: As you may guess, we’re seeing a huge demand from our customers for thin and light business laptops since mobility, on corporate campuses and outside is on the rise, and 2-in-1s with larger touch screens in the 11 to 13-inch range. Particularly given how oversaturated the consumer tablet market is (and consistent with industry data), it’s clear that this is where the market is going in preparation for the technology employees will want and need in the future. It’s a matter of productivity: workers need a full keyboard and a full traditional operating system, which is part of the reason we haven’t seen tablets taking off in the workplace in a macro sense.

Another relatively recent customer request has been for technology that is as beautiful as it is functional, that employees will be proud to use and show off. Years ago, CTOs could hand employees their standard corporate notebook and that was that. But today, employees expect more (our research has found that CEOs consider corporate technology to be a critical part of recruiting and keeping the best talent). Our new Latitude line has been incredibly popular with our customers since its introduction earlier this year which doesn’t surprise us, given that we heavily factored in customer feedback and requests while developing the line and have introduced form factors that are advantaged to consumer devices.

Q: What do ITDMs need to prioritise within their IT decision making?

We urge our customers to consider four key priorities while making the right purchase for their business, both now and 5, 10 years down the road:

  1. Productivity: Most businesses require substantially more computing power than what is offered by a standard tablet, to ensure a fully productive workforce.
  2. Security: You don’t have to sacrifice security for beauty – there are plenty of beautiful options on the market now, such as our new Latitudes which offer industry leading security features our customers require, in an elegant, sleek form factor.
  3. Manageability: The larger the business, the more challenging it is for an IT administrator to keep all systems updated, secure and serviced. It’s important to factor in what management tools and capabilities you’ll need to manage a company’s full infrastructure, and what that cost will be.
  4. Services: Businesses need to bring new systems online as confidently and quickly as possible, and CIOs need a mature and unified approach to enterprise services.

Q: What advice would you give IT professionals in order to safeguard themselves from security threats (across all OS’s)?

A: It’s important for businesses to take a holistic view of their security strategy, and ensure that they are not only protecting individual devices but also data as it travels across various platforms and cloud environments. With today’s threats, it’s important that employee devices are secured throughout the entire lifecycle – and this includes the boot process.

Along with ensuring devices are secured, modern security also requires encrypting and protecting business data itself so that it is free to move across an entire corporate environment. In the modern business world, it’s vital that a data security solution is heterogeneous so that employees can access critical data at any time in any location, in order to promote productivity and collaboration. The Dell Data Security suite of solutions provide IT professionals with leading encryption solution which allows data to be secure wherever it travels – whether that’s across various O/S, public cloud platforms or even across various devices.

Q: Why are OEMs continuing to sell slate tablets if they’re clearly on the decline?

A: Slate tablets will not disappear completely and we think they will continue to find a receptive audience among consumers and companies that need devices for purpose-driven applications like point of sale payments, retail and hospitality. However, the market is continuing to evolve and we are seeing a resurgence of the 2-in-1s and continued growth of the traditional form factor laptop from a commercial perspective. Dell is focused on creating technology that businesses need, and for that reason, we are exiting the Android tablet business to concentrate more fully on Windows PCs and 2-in-1s.

Another key thing to consider is that IT decision makers have limited budgets and are generally only interested in supporting two devices: a smartphone and a productivity device. Since a PC is far better suited for keeping employees productive, that relegates the tablet to a companion device and not a necessity.

Q: What are the pros and cons of outsourcing enterprise sales functions to partners?

A: We firmly believe there are no benefits to the end user for OEMs outsourcing sales or support. The market is very crowded and support has become a critical factor in bulk hardware buying. Dell Deployment Services, ProSupport and ProSupport Plus for PCs and Tablets services can help cut costs and increase productivity across Dell hardware and software infrastructure.

Q: What’s your take on the Apple-IBM partnership?

A: It’s certainly an interesting collaboration and we’ll have to see how it ultimately pans out, but we haven’t seen many developments that we think will help Apple scale and infiltrate businesses with the iPad Pro. At this point, we see it as a niche business device, but don’t see it replacing the PC.

Q: What are OEMs doing to support and optimise Windows 10 for commercial products?

With the release of Windows 10, OEMS are positioned to take advantage of the largest growth opportunities within the personal computing space. Historically, Windows has proven itself to be an optimal platform for manageability, meaning IT professionals can rest assured that the technology they buy today will support the apps and software developments five years down the road. We are working closely with Microsoft to develop hardware that will take advantage of Windows 10 interface and features, such as Cortana and Windows Hello.

In terms of transitioning onto Windows 10, we also offer businesses the highest level of support. Dell has been awarded Windows Deployment Partner of the Year for the last four years in a row, and we are helping to make updates and upgrades available to Windows 10 PC installed bases through Windows as a Service (WaaS) which will help IT professionals have a more streamlined migration as Windows 10 is more widely adopted in the enterprise. We also offer legacy application transition services to help ensure the specific software that keeps our customers running is fully tested for a seamless Windows 10 transition.

Q: Apple is touting the iPad as 'the ultimate PC replacement' – what’s your take on this? 

For employees whose jobs requires more than basic tasks like checking email and glancing at the Internet, they require substantially more computing power to ensure a fully productive workforce. Tablets simply cannot match the PC’s processing power, flexibility and ability to facilitate productivity and turn creative thought into tangible results and will not find widespread adoption in the business world as PC replacements.

Raza Haider, Executive Director of Dell's Commercial PC Product Group

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Nessluop