I’ve been reading Hugh’s tails of life at Dell with interest. I first became aware of Hugh after stumbling across the Blue Monster. Something about the it stuck a cord with me, on a much smaller scale it applied to my own organisation as well as it did to MS. Reading through Hugh’s thoughts on Dell it’s funny how many of his observations there also ring true of my own experiences elsewhere.
Anyway, one point in his recent post stood out for me:
They’re called PCs, they’re not called BCs. They’re called personal computers, not business computers. That being said, the demands of an affluent, creative American are different from the needs of an IT manager in a large widget factory. As the lines that separate business and personal get ever more blurry, I see all major computer companies [including Gosh! Yes! Apple!] struggle to bridge the gap.
This balance between personal and business computing is something that is creeping into more and more of what I do.
I think here Hugh is referring to the fact that people don’t want to buy dull black business computers for their homes – and why would they. But increasingly the other way of looking at it – that people want a more personal experience at work – is becoming a challenge for that same IT manager at the widget factory.
For years corporate IT, and the client side desktop and laptop business in particular, has been driven by the good ol’ tenets of standardisation and simplicity. Standardise on a platform and make it simple to support – that way your costs are lower.
All the big vendors know this is what the IT managers are thinking and pitch their wares at that market. Dull black PC’s that don’t change year on year and are full of great management tricks and tools. Fantastic for us IT chaps but it makes for a boring life for poor old end users.
In fairness there’s not much IT groups can do about that. They have to go for the cost efficiencies that corporate platforms provide, and the vendors don’t offer anything exciting in that space. As Hugh mentions, even Apple while they might make great hardware, don’t get that balance right. In their case the problem is reversed – they’re too consumer focused. Whilst the hardware is great to look at and use, their platform doesn’t necessarily play that well within the complex infrastructures that enterprises have built up manage their estate of computers.
It’s possible that there’s now an emerging market for business desktop and laptop PC’s that combine both the cool looks and functionality of cutting edge home computers with the component stability and management of business ranges.
To some extent this is already being shown by the increasing interest in corporate NetBooks – something HP is addressing with a forthcoming range which it’s keen to hype at the moment.
If I was Dell I’d look at whether it would be worth combining the best aspects of their corporate range – component stability, management functionality, etc. – with the concept and chassis of something like their Studio range.
Sure, the hardware is only a small part of the balance between personal and business computing, but it’s a good start. It’ll take time for IT groups to adjust to the idea of allowing the business to have more freedom in it’s IT. The game needs to shift away from ‘locking down’ business PC’s to just ‘configuring’ them. It’s a big change in culture, but from what I have seen that change is starting to happen. A vendor who can tap into that may well profit from it.