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What Carl Icahn doesn’t understand about Dell

In my 32 years as a PC industry analyst I have watched PC companies rise and fall. I feel as though I have a solid understanding of how the computing industry has developed and what it will take to compete in the future. And though the role of PCs has changed over the decades, computers are still central to the life of any consumer or business, even if some of those computers are now called tablets and smartphones.

I've followed Dell from its inception and I have recently been analysing the competing bids to take Dell private. In all honesty, I am quite concerned about any outside plan that does not guarantee Dell remains whole and continues to run as a single company, with all divisions contributing to its success.

Carl Icahn, who holds an 8.7 per cent stake in Dell, recently urged fellow stockholders to get their shares appraised and reconsider Michael Dell's $13.65-a-share (£9-a-share) offer to take the company private. While I have much respect for Icahn, I am not convinced he truly understands what it takes to compete in the fast-paced tech market. I believe that for Dell to compete and grow it must be run as a single unified company where all divisions work together to achieve a common vision and goals. But if history is our guide, keeping Dell intact is probably not part of the plans of Icahn and his team.

Back in May, I attended the third Dell Annual Analyst Conference (DAAC) in Austin, Texas. Like most of my colleagues at the event, I hoped to hear first-hand how Dell sees the market, what role it seeks to play in a rapidly changing technology world, and how it plans to grow as a company in light of the increased competition and shifting demands from business users and consumers alike.

After two days of speeches and dedicated divisional information sessions, I came away with a picture of a company that was much more in control of its future than I had suspected. It had diligently laid out the necessary building blocks that, when pieced together, could help it weather the changing dynamics of today's tech market and drive it forward in the future. This vision includes being a hardware, software, and services company offering the whole package for many key growth segments.

From these meetings I came to understand that in order for Dell not only to survive but also thrive, it needs to be able to execute this vision in a measured and strategic way. And that will take time. It is clear to me now that this is the main reason Michael Dell wants to take the company private; rushing changes to Dell's future business models in order to keep the investor community happy each quarter does no good.

Weaving together its powerful server hardware, software and services, world-class security, expanded IT services, and even its PC business (which, as we were told, drives 50 per cent of all of its enterprise sales) gives Dell the opportunity to remain a major player in tech. We were also told about new tablets and other mobile products expected to come to market later this year. These will keep Dell competitive with Lenovo, HP, and other PC and CE vendors targeting the same business and consumer markets.

Servers, PCs, and mobile devices need security. IT needs servers, software, and mobile device management tools all working together to meet the needs of their mobile users. The future of software distribution is in the cloud and all of Dell's divisions deliver key parts of a cloud solution that can work together seamlessly if executed properly. Consumers want a company that delivers solid products as PCs, tablets, and smartphones become more ingrained into their digital lifestyles. From what I saw at the analyst meeting, Dell finally has all of the pieces in place to sustain the company and help it grow if executed properly.

When I look at Dell and the challenges ahead of the firm, I cannot stress how important I feel it is that Dell operates as a unified entity. I have spent many years observing and understanding the machinations of a successful tech company and monitoring the shifting needs of business and consumers. I believe without a doubt that for companies like Dell, HP, and Lenovo, all of their divisions and executives have to be on the same page, working and collaborating to provide all of the key components of hardware, software, and services if they are to succeed given the current and future market conditions I see ahead.

For the record, I don't own any Dell stock. I am an independent market researcher and my perspective is based on decades of studying how this industry works. In my opinion, if there was ever a time when companies need to operate as a unified force, it would be now. Any attempt to break up that kind of synergy will only lead to failure.