April 29, 2012, 7:56 AM — Every year, Dell has an analyst event in Austin, Texas, where the company provides an update on what it has been doing and an outlook on plans for the coming year. The company's key message seems to be that it really isn't just about the desktop anymore, and this year Dell tried to present itself not as the outfit that wants to be a solutions company but rather to demonstrate that it has become one.
The nature of the questions also revealed that it is very difficult to change perceptions, as a number of my peers are clearly struggling with seeing Dell as a different company from the vendor they first met decades ago.
Perceptions can lead or follow reality, and engineering-focused companies are often in the latter category because they feel that they have to be able to do something before they can really talk about it. IBM, in this segment, seems just about the only firm that has led with perception and followed with capability, but it is the rare exception. Dell clearly has changed, but getting people to see the change is proving daunting.
Let me share some of the more compelling stories.
The Dell Scooter
One of the more interesting products at Dell's show was an electric scooter from Current Motor. I've been following electric vehicles for some time, and most of the scooters in the market are little better than cheap junk from China. The first exception was a Scooter from Vectrix that, while it was both expensive and, at least initially, had a lot of bugs, it was more of a quality product. However, the firm had difficulties, largely because it tried to do it all alone.
Current Motors went to Dell for help, not only in creating its IT infrastructure, but to work on the electronics in the scooter. The end result was a far more refined product, one that is connected to the Web to locate charging, plan trips around available battery power, and eliminate the typical energy anxiety that surrounds electric vehicles. This last consideration has been a huge problem, both for cars and scooters, because they tend to take a long time to charge and have ranges that are well below those of automobiles. Moreover, charging stations are far less prevalent than gas stations.