Following Dell’s acquisition of, er, Dell – taking the behemoth off the public market – CEO Michael Dell has penned an open letter to the company’s customers which promises “organic” and “inorganic” investment. Translation: Dell’s patent-packed Supermarket Sweep shopping spree will be ongoing.
At Dell Tech Camp, Amsterdam, last week, the company was very keen to assert the importance of acquisitions in its portfolio. Wyse, Kace, and the others were wheeled into Dell’s Software Group and it is clear from the time given to each that the company’s intended message was that it’s growing. It wants to continue to compete with HP and IBM in enterprise, and there are plenty of pre-packaged firms out there it believes it can pick up.
The letter opened by saying Dell’s agreement represents an “exciting new chapter for our company and for you, our customers”. Ultimately, more control in the paws of Michael Dell will define Dell at this transitional point in the company’s history.
“As always, our unwavering focus is on delivering a fantastic customer experience and creating value for your organisation,” the letter reads. “We believe that our proposed new ownership will provide long-term support to help Dell innovate, invest for growth and accelerate our transformation strategy. We’ll have the flexibility to continue organic and inorganic investment and drive industry leading innovation”.
Mentioning the past few years, Dell claimed that strategic execution has been “consistent”, and again mentioned that portfolio it has managed to swell. Considering the enterprise represents the overwhelming lion’s share of Dell’s products, services and technologies – will we see Mike pick Apotheker two from HP’s notebook under the latter’s short lived leadership? Some pundits guffawed when IBM dumped its consumer division, but it turned out to be for the better.
HP, meanwhile, struggles with ‘restructuring’ and was forced to write down the insanity of its Autonomy buy. We’ll say it right now: it will be Michael Dell’s hated box-shifting label for whom the Dell tolls.
The Silicon Valley firm posted an impressive end of fiscal year in 2012 with its technology in roughly 150,000 enterprises and with about 15 million users, channel director Chris Penner told ChannelEye, along with over 17,000 developers actively building custom apps for the platform. Pre-partner programme, the company has been busy boosting its roster of seasoned executives and went on a poaching spree over a six month period, bringing on staff with experience at Salesforce, VMware, HP, NetApp, Cisco and more to make sure it gets the channel strategy right on the first try.
One such hire is David Quantrell, who joined Box in September 2012 to run Box’s channel strategy in EMEA. Prior to this role he was President, EMEA for McAfee, and also has experience at HP and Nortel.
Wayne Cook, another hire, was previously at McAfee and is now a VP for channel and alliances at Box.
Penner told us that for the poached staff, moving over to Box presented an opportunity “of a lifetime” in a company that is well positioned with proper venture backing, a tremendous install base, and $40 billion pre-IPO. “A lot of ingredients that don’t come along every day,” Penner said. “We are building a really fundamental industry leading channel”.
Box Partner Network will create an “ecosystem of strategic alliance, channel and platform partners” that will bring Box’s content into new markets and, it hopes, drive further lofty aims of expansion. In a press release, the company boasted that, although in relative infancy, the company already had tons of big business clients signed up, including EA, NBC, Nationwide, Discovery Communications, Sony Music, and Netflix.
Starting partners include Autodesk, AtTask, Fonality, Marketo, CollabNet, Clarizen, TIBCO, Tidemark, and Xero – while five new partners, CollabNet, Clarizen, Fonality, tibbr, and Tidemark, will be tasked with leveraging the Box Embed HTML5 framework introduced late last year.
50 resellers have been signed up on a global basis over the last four months, including big hitters such as Ingroam Micro.
Interested channel players should head here.
As for Box’s position in the tech industry, Penner is optimistic: he tells us that end users love the service for its collaboration tools and simplicity, while IT likes Box because they know exactly what technology is going to be on premises and can control and manage every level of content in a secure manner – which is not the case for consumer alternatives, Penner said.
Figures from Context show that all-in-one inkjet sales in the UK slid 11.8 percent by volume in 2012. That figure is better than the rest of the EU where all-in-one inkjet sales fell by 14 per cent.
Wireless versions of InkJets are doing slightly better because they are popular in homes and small offices because they can be located easily, connecting to multiple devices without cabling.
As you might expect, HP is still the leading vendor of wireless all-in-one inkjets, although Epson and Canon are doing a little better. However, the InkJet market has been looking shaky for a year.
In August Lexmark announced that it was pulling out of the market completely. Lexmark made its name on the “flog a cheap printer make your money back on the ink” model which was pioneered by HP. The fact that it left the market was seen as the beginning of the end. If Lexmark could kill off an entire business, unit sales numbers must have been dramatically bad.
Other companies have been seeing the writing on the wall for about three years. Consumer inkjet sales were proving so bad that it was better to try and flog the technology to corporate. Epson spent a fortune on its WorkForce high-end inkjets and did OK. HP, which has pitched its products to the business market for years, should have been doing fine too.
However, HP CEO Meg Whitman blamed part of the company’s recent and dismal earnings announcement as a steep decline in HP printer sales. She said that this lack of interest from consumers meant HP was going to de-emphasise products for lower-end customers. It seems business customers are no longer that interested either.
It is not quite so clear why the inkjet market has been so completely gutted. There have been moves to claim that the low end market and the consumer space have become completely paperless. Pictures which once would have been printed are now saved and shared across the net. Hard copy is less likely to be needed.
Some of that might be true, but the cost and quality of laser printing has also dropped. Cartridges require filling less often and are frequently cheaper than inkjets. Mostly it is because in the consumer market inkjet sales were tied to PC sales. Cheap inkjets were often sold as packages with PCs.
It also might indicate that there was a gradual realisation among consumers that inkjets really are a waste of cash in the long term. While the high-end inkjet technology was good, particularly for photographs, most of the great unwashed would not pay over £250 for a decent inkjet with all the sub-$100 models floating around. The cheap and nasty machines poisoned the market for the others.
But as the cleaners clean the blood off the court room walls, it is clear that the case will have some impact on the way suppliers do business.
The case centred on the so-called Hurd Agreement, which HP and Oracle negotiated after Mark Hurd left the company and joined Oracle. Oracle felt that the agreement was a statement that the two companies would work together as they did before their spat. Oracle co-President Safra Catz claimed that such a statement was a non-binding “public hug”.
The judge thought that public hugs should be considered legally binding, depending on who was doing the hugging. He pointed out you can’t write down a phrase like “Oracle will continue to offer its product suite on HP platforms … in a manner consistent with that partnership as it existed prior to Oracle’s hiring of Hurd” and hope that no one would take you literally.
“The sentence can only be reasonably interpreted as requiring Oracle to continue offering its product suite on HP’s Itanium platforms,” Kleinberg wrote.
It went without saying Oracle appealed, but other judges also nodded sagely and said that it did not matter what Ellison thought he had signed, the agreement was there in black and white.
While the situation is extraordinary, it could herald a new era of partner agreements.
The case effectively said that any agreement has to be written down carefully and mulled over by the legal team before it is signed. It also says that anything put in writing has to be looked at as if it was chiseled into Egyptian granite for all time.
While this might seem obvious, it clearly was not in Oracle’s mind it has some of the most expensive, er, best, lawyers in the world.
Already analysts are muttering that you will never see another “public hug” deal like this again. Every agreement between suppliers will have a start date and an end date.
This is one of the reason why the channel should be dusting off their legal contracts with their suppliers post haste. Many of them will find that they have signed vague expressions of love and devotion which could get them in hot water.
Some of these contracts are like a pre-nuptial agreement, which are signed when the partners are in love and only reviewed when they are arguing custody over the CD collection.
Software deals in particular can be problematic, which are particularly ripe for a major legal row when something goes wrong for a mutual customer.
Fortunately a lot of lawyers have written in clauses into such for the contracts to be reviewed, or renewed. The problem is that if they are not renegotiated it is possible, as HP did, to stand up and demand it be taken literally.
The Itanium case also proved that trying to get out of a deal with bad grace might also backfire. Oracle really hates having to support Itanium, but if it assigned its worst developers to make sure the porting was stuffed, Ellison could be back in court facing a contempt charge.
Because the court has become involved, Oracle is painted into a corner and must be a dedicated follower of Itanium. Its ability to duck out of the plan is even more restricted than Intel or HP.
No company would ever want their partner to have that much power over their business decisions. So it is probably better to check out what those old contracts look like before you pick a fight with your channel partners.
Having delivered a keynote designed to outline Dell’s positive outlook in enterprise to a room full of press and analysts at a remodeled gas-works, the Westergasfabriek, on the edge of an Amsterdam park, Dell EMEA President Aongus Hegarty took some time out of his schedule to speak with ChannelEye, joined by Edmund English, Director, EMEA commercial marketing.
The latter confirmed Dell is actively looking at ARM servers.
As CEO Michael Dell is rumoured to be funding taking the company off the market, with investment from Microsoft, it is hard not to see Dell in a transitional phase. Although Dell holds a strong presence in the enterprise already – the whispers at Tech Camp were about just if and when the company would dump its consumer division.
Hegarty said that from a business perspective, Dell has been going through significant change over the last three years. “We’ve been concentrating on enterprise,” he said. “We are at a significant stage in our transformation, very much linked to our customers deploying technologies”. English added that looking at the company’s market strategy, Dell recognises that there are “a lot of great things that brought us to where we are” and that the firm must not forget about them – and that it is adding capabilities rather than cutting them. It is, English emphasised, an “evolution”.
Channel players in particular will have noted Dell’s product portfolio swelling in hardware and in services, not to mention opening itself up to a partner network rather than dealing directly with the company. “Our company five years ago would have been predominantly direct,” English said. “Five years ago we changed and unlocked choice for our partners – because of that our channel business has grown strongly over a number of years.
“Dell is predominantly a commercial company,” Hegarty added. “About 15 percent in consumer and 85 percent in business to business”. With a lot of work around the enterprise, Dell has been building its portfolio in the full enterprise, including in networking, storage and servers.
It is clear from the company’s shopping spree in the enterprise space that Dell is keen to continue as an established player, adding intellectual property as it goes, including with acquisitions such as Quest, Wyse, Kace, and the others that now form Dell Software Group. “That said,” Hegarty pointed out, “we’ve been continuing to invest in our PCs and tablets” – in line with Windows 8 launching late 2012. It did, however, pull out of its brief flirtation in the smartphone space.
“We have continued to invest in the prosumer as well as the commercial side,” Hegarty said. “You see a lot of trends from the consumer space, features and functionalities, influencing, like in Bring Your Own Device – we are very focused with our commercial customers to enable that choice, to work with security elements and access to data”. For example, with Dell’s Latitude Ultrabook.
Although the Intel logo was plastered on Dell’s Tech Camp banners – a similar blue to Dell’s own logo – English confirmed to ChannelEye that the firm has been actively looking at ARM servers. Efficiencies in power are the talk of the day, and English said that Dell takes its lead from its customers. “That’s what we build into our portfolio,” he said. “We are seeing asks and interest, specifically in the hyperscale space”. That said – there have also been “tremendous” efficiency gains on x86 generation on generation. “We are looking at it, yes – have we done engineering and back end testing? Yes.
“We look at our total cost of ownership,” Hegarty said. “At the end of the day, it is about providing the most efficient technology for our customers”. English added that efficiency can span more than classic power efficiencies: “You’re also talking about staff, driving more automation into backend infrastructures, changing architectures, and thinks like that rather than just keeping the lights on”.
Aside from trends such as tablet usage and mobility in the commercial sector, for SMBs, more should be focusing on social media and the building trends that are happening organically and those that are technology led. “For small businesses,” Hegarty said, “they need to be aware – it’s one of the key mechanisms to connect in business, but also in getting feedback and listening to your customers”. Of ten small businesses Hegarty recently spoke to, at least half of them had no social media strategy or approach adopted in their business.
Considering the soothsaying from influential analyst house Gartner, which said in a recent report that the biggest hitters will have their own in-house social networks, this is an area where businesses cannot afford to be playing catch-up.
For trends in the enterprise, English said that convergence is increasing. “It’s a long time since a customer rang up and asked for a server,” he said. “What they’re looking for is a collaboration service, they want a prescripted solution, the fabric, the storage, the compute, and how you manage and orchestrate that – you’re seeing more conversations happening at a holistic level and an application level”.
Hegarty invited interested channel players to start a conversation with Dell. “What’s exciting for Dell’s channel partners is they’ve seen the portfolio of business expand and grow,” he said. Three or four years ago, partners particularly focused on servers, but the wider portfolio is open for business, and Dell is finding that those partners are investing in other capabilities as well. “Using the enterprise space as one example, the acquisitions that we’ve done – a lot of those companies had been doing business through channel partners, so that’s brought new partners into our network too – Dell uniquely has a full portfolio of technology, end to end, and it creates opportunity for partners.
“The best advice I can give to partners, is come talk to Dell,” Hegarty said.
What does the wider market look like to Dell, right now? Hegarty said that, of course, he couldn’t speak for the rest of the market – but for Dell, it is “very much focused on our customers”. Dell must – and is, Hegarty said – understand customer needs and requirements, as well as trends in the market place, whether it’s in a business environment or at home. The strategy Dell has been developing has been working, according to Hegarty, who cited some slides from Marius Haas earlier in the day – himself an ex HP man, that demonstrated it is “winning in that space”.
As for Dell’s competitors – Marius Haas, formerly a heavy hitter at HP and top ally with ousted chief exec Mark Hurd – led the company’s networking division towards serious success. HP itself has an aggressive channel partner program and is providing subsidies and loans to potential partners as well as buying back rival equipment and end-of-lifing it if it can’t be recycled.
How can Dell respond to such aggression from its top rivals? English told us that primarily, the message in the enterprise is total cost of ownership with storage. “I’m very keen to go and have a five year TCO conversation with anybody versus the competitors,” he said, before acknowledging that Dell had similar “tactical tools” for the channel – including where it buys back terabytes in storage. “But for me that is not going to be a primary vehicle of acquisition, I don’t want to press the price of labor, I want to have a holistic conversation”.
“That really reflects a reaction to the success we’re having with the end to end solutions,” Hegarty said. “I can point to the IDC data globally – we’ve been taking share from HP now six quarters in a role, with the launch of 12g technology. Nothing beats investing in R&D to innovate, and to improve the TCO. Different competitors will react in different, potentially kneejerk ways, to deal with that – but nothing beats innovation”.
While speculation about him personally taking the company off the market to exert more control increases, European bigwigs here at Dell’s Technology Camp, Amsterdam, took to the stage promising a packed room of analysts and reporters that Dell is on an aggressive push into enterprise, but that it is very much established there already.
Dell believes it will find opportunity in a world plagued with recession, and heavy hitters such as Marius Haas, president for Dell Enterprise Solutions, are fighting the company’s corner.
Opening the presentation was Aongus Hegarty, president, Dell EMEA. He insisted that Dell’s position is as an established software company, and that its many recent acquisitions – recently herded into one umbrella group as Dell Software, are paying off. Recurring themes from all the speakers were the company’s broad intellectual property and a vast stockpile of patents, swelling with each acquisition.
Crucially, Aongus pointed out that Dell is unique to the competition. Showing a slide that presented the company in a very favourable light within the enterprise, his statement was backed up by HP veteran Marius Haas. Haas said that over the last 10 or so years, people have been mostly thinking about performance and value – but the trend has shifted onto how also to provide operational efficiency across the board.
Haas pointed out that systems can be expensive to maintain, and flagged the Itanium as an example. Although these systems can provide some operational efficiencies, costs are there because they don’t provide the full package, according to Haas. Even with cheaper Chinese vendors (naming no names), though capital costs may be at bargain prices, operational costs can be higher because there are other factors to think in – and they still must be maintained. This is where Dell differs, he said.
Scalability is another key point. Being able to deliver services from the SMBs to enterprise level means more opportunity and flexibility. Haas mentioned an initiative by the British government to store all data from every study in a digital format: this leads on to conversations from high computational requirements through to what is possible with tape storage, or the cheapest options to protect and keep that data.
Although there has been a slow down in business spending, Dell fully expects the second half of this year to pick up. We will have to wait and see. What is clear, is that Dell is serious about further entrenching its brand as an enterprise company and its execs were quite convincing. Can a further shift away from shaky consumer territory be on the cards?
The Taiwanese outfit is the fourth largest PC maker in the world, and it peaked in 2010, when it briefly ranked second. However, things have gone downhill and on Wednesday Acer announced it expects to post a full-year net loss for the second consecutive year. It is also looking at a $120.1 million write-down on several value brands under its umbrella.
During the PC boom in the late nineties and early 2000s, Acer went on a massive shopping spree and picked up a number of value brands, including Packard Bell, Gateway, eMachines and E-Ten. The write down on said brands dragged Acer to a net loss and the company plans to discontinue the eMachines brand altogether.
Other PC makers are facing similar challenges, as they struggle to reinvent themselves and gain a toehold in emerging sectors, like smartphones and tablets. Acer has a small presence in both sectors.
The company’s phone business is practically negligible and its attempt to expand its presence in China in 2012, with smartphones based on Aliyun, a heavily customized Android-based OS, was promptly ditched after Google threatened to cancel the company’s Android license. Acer had a bit more luck with Android tablets and it is moving into the Windows 8 tablet space as well, but its efforts have been overshadowed by the likes of Asus and Samsung.
Even as it struggles to remain competitive in the PC market, burdened by underperforming value brands, Acer prospects in the heavily contested smartphone and tablet markets look even bleaker.
Brokerage houses Nomura Holdings and UBS are anything but optimistic and UBS cut its target price and maintained the “sell” rating on Acer stock after the report. Nomura was somewhat kinder, but it also maintained its “reduce” rating on Acer, Taipei Times reports.
“Longer term, we think Acer still needs to face the reality of how to rebuild the brand positioning/image for Packard Bell and Gateway amid intense competition and slowing PC industry growth,” said Nomura analyst Eve Jung.
Micro servers major on low power consumption and have small footprints, and use multiple mobile processors. The main market will be small to medium sized businesses and applications use light duty web serving, can be used for dedicated hosting, cloud computing and analytics.
Right now, this sector only accounts for 2.3 percent of total server sales, but M&M predicts that in the next five years to reach between 25 and 30 percent of sales worldwide.
While some large enterprises are already using micro servers in an area dominated by Intel Atom and Xeon CPUs, 64 bit ARM processors are set to appear in 2014 and that will change the market dynamics, the research company said.
North America is the biggest market for micro servers currently, followed by Europe, but it is expected that the Asian region will overtake Europe by 2018. Vendors already in the game include Intel, HP, Dell, Fujitsu and Samsung.