Interview: Dell software chief talks transformation

By , IDG News Service |  Software

A: It's a perception you have to address in the marketplace. We've shipped and integrated servers and software and done outsourcing for some of the most complex companies in the world. A couple of weeks ago we announced a supercomputer with the Texas Advanced Computing Center and that's as big and complicated a system as anyone is doing in the world. Our challenge from a branding perspective is getting people to think of us more how we aspire to be and less how we were. Where it hurts you is when customers don't know you offer something so they don't think to ask, that's why you have to gain critical mass and tell your story in a visible way.

Q: What's Dell's applications strategy? Applications was one of the four focus areas you talked about last year, along with systems management, security and data analytics. You offer hosted products from Salesforce.com, Adobe and Pardot, you were going to add Microsoft Great Plains and Intuit Quickbooks. What's the plan now?

A: It's an area we haven't figured out yet, quite honestly. We made one change between then and now: we decided it was more of a services play than a software play, so we moved the hosted business I had over to the services division. The hosted applications market looks like it has a lot of potential but it's taking a long time to take off. What I decided to do after a year of experimentation was to focus on the three other businesses I had that were growing faster. So Dell is still thinking about hosted applications, but I'm not.

Q: It just seems like such a good fit with your focus on small and mid-sized businesses.

A: The challenge is that it's a different customer, it's a different selling cycle, it's quite heavily fragmented, and the only real way to make money out of it I think is to own your own IP [intellectual property], and the IP is very expensive. Those were the conundrums we faced as we tried to figure out how to make money from this.

Q: People have talked about Quest as the glue that binds your other software acquisitions together. How do you view Quest? There seems to be technologies you can apply across all the other different areas.

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