"As we kept making more and more powerful hardware, we'd go to our customers and say we built this and ... they'd say, 'We don't really care about your shiny new server. What do you know about my business? If you know my business and the problems I'm trying to solve, then I'll talk to you. I want to fix my supply chain. I want to redo my manufacturing.' We had to change from a product company to a services and solutions company. That involved a significant shift."
To answer that demand, Dell built a sizable services organization, and today, the company is with customers such as health care providers to help them share data and speed innovation that leads to improvements in patient care.
With the rapid growth of tablet computers in the market, Dell said he wants to help enterprises manage the plethora of devices that they suddenly have to deal with.
"If you think about the client device, whether mobile phone or tablet, it's pretty hard to have a complete end-to-end solution for customers if you don't have the whole thing," he said. "We'll help our customers manage the devices that people are bringing into their enterprise ... We're providing a lot of infrastructure to those companies and helping our customers figure out this explosion of devices."
Who is winning the tablet race? Well, that he said, would have to be Apple .
"If you look at the tablet market, you'd have to say right now it's an iPad market," Dell said. "The Android stuff has not done fantastically well and I think I'm being fair in my estimation. If you ask who the challengers are, it's Android and Microsoft . Microsoft has a pretty good shot with Windows 8, and we're pretty excited about what they're doing."
Social media is also major tool for Dell.
The CEO said it's important to be a company with "big ears," meaning that it is learning and listening. "When the Internet came along, that was like rocket fuel for Dell," he said. "We look at social media and see it as a great opportunity to collaborate and share and scale."
Dell also said he was saddened by the loss of Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs.
"It's been a time of reflection recently," he said. "When I was about 14 years old, I got an Apple II. I took it apart and figured out how the parts worked ... Steve will be missed. He was a friend. I met Steve when I was 16 years old. Steve came to Houston, Texas, to an Apple user group meeting. I was there with my Apple II."