Dell is trying to extend the appeal of its Streak handheld to businesses and add a new dimension to its enterprise hardware, software and services offerings, a company official said this week. The company wants to offer tablets and smartphones as complementary computing devices that can easily interoperate with PCs and servers in IT environments, said Steve Felice, president of consumer and small business at Dell, during a presentation at the Deutsche Bank Technology Conference, which was also webcast.
Dell entered the handheld market this year and offers the Streak, which includes a 5-inch screen and runs on the Android OS. Felice said that the consumer-centric device could be attractive to commercial customers because of its usability, interactivity and remote-access capabilities. Dell is experimenting with smartphones and tablets with multiple screen sizes and is evaluating multiple operating systems, including Windows mobile OSes, that could make it easier to implement handheld devices in enterprise environments, Felice said.
"It's not our intention to be the handset leader in phones. I think we're picking our spot here about where to participate, and it's really in the higher end and it's with customers that care more about having complementary devices," Felice said.
Healthcare and education are great examples where smartphones and tablets can be easily integrated, Felice said. The mobility and content management capabilities offered by devices like the Streak make them easy to fit into broader hardware, software and services offerings to hospitals.
"Using these devices in a healthcare environment seems to have great application... in managing patient care information," Felice said.
Dell this week said it was integrating healthcare software with the Streak. The application provides clinicians with access to electronic medical records and patient information. The software can also be used to remotely update patient information.
"Rather than just make this device-specific, I think we can manage the whole ecosystem here for a really good total cost of ownership for a hospital," Felice said.
Dell already has a strong presence in the healthcare industry, and is also a major hardware supplier to the education market. Felice said that the company could combine its enterprise and mobile offerings to push tablets and smartphones into educational institutions, especially in India and Australia, where the government plays a big role in deciding how technologies are used.
As it develops new handheld devices, the company will remain flexible with its form factors, screen sizes and designs. An industry-standard approach could provide the company a leg up over its rivals, Felice said.
"I think Android is a very healthy thing for our industry, whether it's encroaching on what Apple's done or having Microsoft work faster to increase their capability. It's all good for us," Felice said. "That approach is better than HP putting all their eggs in the basket on Palm. I'd rather us stay more open on this and focus more on the customer experience and have some flexibility."
But Dell was criticised for providing Streak with an older Android 1.6 version, and the Aero smartphone with Android 1.5. Admitting to the mistake, Felice said that the company is working with Google to quickly upgrade the devices to the latest OS.
"We launched Aero in China where there wasn't as much concern about [the OS]. We wanted to see the applicability of the product before we went mainstream with it," Felice said. The company's approach was to get an idea of the acceptance of the form factor, but Felice said the devices will be upgraded to Android 2.2 "not too far from now."