PCs? What PCs? Dell Technologies touts its broader IT portfolio after EMC acquisition

Personal computers no longer the focus at Dell Technologies after EMC Corp. merger. 

Posted October 19th, 2016

About 30 minutes into Michael Dell's keynote speech at his company's big annual conference in downtown Austin on Wednesday, he finally got around to mentioning a word that had been all but banished from his speech: PCs.

Standing on a massive stage inside the Austin Convention Center and facing an audience of thousands, Dell told the crowd that for 15 quarters in a row, Dell Technologies had increased its market share in PC revenue. 

"I've heard some say we are going to be distracted" by the merger with data storage company EMC Corp., Dell said, and not as focused on PCs. 

"That's all wrong," he said. "Nothing like that is happening."

But beyond that quick shout-out to its legacy PC business, Dell kept the focus of his highly-anticipated speech at Dell EMC World on the Round Rock-based technology giant's other IT products and services, such as servers, storage and software.

When Dell bought EMC Corp. last month in a $58-billion deal, it accelerated a transformation Dell Technologies had begun years ago when it started to expand beyond personal computers.  

Dell, of course, still makes laptop and desktop computers, but that is no longer a majority source of its revenue, nor where its biggest growth is likely to come from because the PC market has been on the decline. 

Michael Dell emphasized to the audience of most IT executives, industry analysts, and the media that his company is uniquely positioned among its competitors because of its size and breadth of its products and services. 

"We are best placed to serve you, whether you are in a small and growing business, or one of the largest companies or a government," Dell pledged to the audience. 

Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman StaffMichael Dell's speech helped kick off Dell EMC World Austin on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.

He also reiterated that Dell is better off being a private company and not publicly traded. Dell went private in 2013. Most of its key competitors, such as Hewlett Packard or Oracle, are publicly traded. 

One concern over buying EMC was the amount of debt Dell Technologies would have to take on to pay for it. 

But Dell worked to dispel that notion. He didn't provide numbers, but said the company's  debt-service ratios are "phenomenal," and that its debt payments are less than competitors who have share buybacks and dividends. 

"We love being a privately controlled company and I haven’t found any downside to it," Dell said. "We are focused on long-term success, not quarterly earnings-per-share and the short-term thinking that plagues many companies. We can think in a time horizon that is measured in decades."

His speech was peppered with highly produced videos with large Dell Technologies customers touting how they use their software or data storage products, such as General Electric or AT&T. Notably different in this year's keynote were references to the small-to-medium-sized businesses that were featured in last year's speech.

That emphasis is no accident -- buying EMC helped Dell gain access to bigger data storage clients. Dell said 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies are using Dell Technologies products or services. 

Speeches from Dell and other top executives at Dell EMC World also helped shed light on where the tech company is not focused: building smartphones, for instance, or tablet computers. 

Asked point-blank if he would ever get back into the smartphone business at a question-and-answer session with the media and analysts, Dell quickly shot back: "Nope." 

"The world doesn't need another smartphone company," he said. 

Earlier this year, Dell also announced it would stop making tablets, a decision that was emphasized again at Dell EMC World. 

"Tablets as PC replacements - hogwash," said Jeff Clarke, head of Dell's Client Solutions Group, which includes its PC business. He said the best device for productivity remains “without question” the PC.

This is Dell's sixth annual tech conference and it was attended by 8,000 people. It costs between $695 to $1,295 to attend, depending on how early you register. 

Next year the company is moving Dell EMC World to Las Vegas because the event is  starting to outgrow the Austin Convention Center, according to Dell officials. 

RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFFAudience members listen to Michael Dell give the keynote speech at the Dell EMC World conference at the Austin Convention Center Wednesday morning October 19, 2016.