Business

Dell/EMC year one has exceeded Michael Dell's expectations

Says biggest surprise is lack of surprises, and PCs won't surprise again

By Simon Sharwood

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VMWORLD 2017 Michael Dell has declared himself better-than-satisfied with the performance of Dell Technologies, a week out from the first anniversary of the acquisition of EMC.

That deal closed on September 7th, 2016 and Dell, the man, says that in the almost-a-year since “the biggest surprise is that we have had no surprises.”

“We anticipated we would have some problems,” he said at VMworld 2017 in Las Vegas. But staff and customers' opinions, measured with net promoter scores, are “all quite positive.” The balance sheet looks pleasing, as “revenue synergies have come faster than we thought.” Dell, the man, added that customers have bought in to the idea of having a larger, broader, company to deal with, instead of more relationships with smaller vendors, as demonstrated by Dell technologies scoring bigger deals than it's ever done before, usually spanning multiple member companies and pleasingly often including engagements with Pivotal.

The CEO also rated the pace of innovation at the combined companies “incredibly high” and opined that Dell Technologies' combined portfolio covers everything buyers want.

Which is not to say the year has been without incident. “There were pre-existing conditions the patient had,” Dell said. “Using facts and logic and customer-orientation we got those resolved.”

Among those issues were figuring out which part of Dell gets to engage with a customer, and when, and where revenue is recognised. VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, who spoke on the same panel with his boss, said the rules of engagement mean the component companies that make up Dell Technologies “might squabble” but won't let anyone “mess with my brother.”

Dell, the man, said he thinks the company's future is helping customers to wrangle data. His thinking here is that the infrastructure on which applications rely has been scaled and automated, but that data remains far less portable. Solving that problem will, he thinks, be an ongoing focus.

The future of the PC is … meh … they've lost their edge

Responding to a question about coming innovations in PCs and smartphones, Dell said “at one level, they are all personal computers. Some people don't like to hear that but they are all microprocessor based machines.”

“Soon there will be 100 billion microprocessors embedded in anything that has electricity ,” he said. “That is actually far more exciting in terms of the future. We will be increasingly connected. As users who will consume information with those various devices, visual display of information is incredibly important. We consume information way faster with our eyes than by tasting it or smelling it or hearing it or something like that. So the devices continue to be incredibly important, but computing is going way, way beyond the devices and certainly that has motivated a lot of things that we are doing as a company.”

“There tends to be some asymptotic phenomenon in innovation where version 12 to version 13 isn't as big an improvement as version one to version two and that's normal cycles. But when you look out at this digital transformation, what I see is IT breaking out of IT and becoming business technology. I see our customers embedding internet protocol into every imaginable thing you can think of. And that is a future that is way beyond the PC and the smartphone.”

Dell, the company, is therefore betting big on edge computing, with VMware announcing efforts in the field and Dell already into edge gateways, ruggedised micro data centres for outdoor use and much more besides.

The CEO said he thinks artificial intelligence and machine intelligence will be big parts of the future of computing, but he does not share Elon Musk's worry that AI could be bad for humanity. Dell said his customers “worry about keeping pace” and don't lose any sleep worrying about robot revolutions. His own belief is that “humans and machines will be the winning combination.” ®

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