Dell corrals acquired products for BYOD market

Dell's latest bid to expand beyond PCs is a push into mobile device management

Dell has pulled together products it gained from recent acquisitions into a series of BYOD offerings, though it faces the challenge of selling them at a time when the company's ownership hangs in the balance.

The offerings are aimed at the hot "Bring Your Own Device" market, where vendors are pitching software and services to help manage the influx of personal smartphones and tablets that employees are bringing into corporate networks.

Dell has taken products from its acquisitions of Quest, SonicWall, Credant, Wyse and others and packaged them with hardware and services into offerings for different aspects of mobile management. It's a continuation of Michael Dell's strategy to make his company less reliant on PCs and expand in more profitable areas like software and services.

Despite the troubles Dell has faced, including missed earnings reports, some analysts are upbeat about its technology. Charles King at Pund-IT said Dell's mobile offerings are competitive, and Ray Wang of Constellation Research said the BYOD market is still fairly open, giving Dell an opportunity.

Despite that, Dell's transformation to a software- and services-driven company has been floundering. Part of the issue may be how Dell is perceived among customers, King said. "You can do everything in your power to reinvent yourself, but when the individual you're creating is somewhat contradictory to the person people know, it takes a while to get the market to recognize the changes you've made," he said.

Dell now faces the added challenge of winning new business at a time when it's involved in a public fight between Michael Dell, who wants to take his company private, and shareholders who think he is not offering them enough money for their stock.

The outcome shouldn't make a big difference to customers, according to Wang. Whether Dell ends up private or public, it will continue to invest in mobile device management. Still, some customers might hold off signing contracts until the outcome becomes clear, he said.

Dell will be competing with IBM, which recently launched its own mobile push, as well as SAP and dozens of specialty firms like MobileIron.

Dell positions itself as the champion of midsized businesses, who have smaller IT departments and need products that are easier to implement. That could help distinguish it from IBM, which does better with large enterprises, King said.

The "mobility solutions" announced Wednesday cover four areas: extending existing PC management tools to include mobile devices; providing mobile access to virtual desktops and cloud applications; securing network access; and updating applications to make them accessible from mobile devices.

They draw on security products from Dell's acquisitions of SonicWall, Credant and MokaFive, identity and access management software from Quest; virtualization and client cloud software from Wyse, and Dell's Kace management appliances, among other things. The product packages are available now, Dell said, and pricing varies.

It also announced upgrades to a few individual products, including Wyse Client Cloud Manager 2.0, which has closer integration with Microsoft's Active Directory for single sign-on, and version 2.0 of Dell's Toad business intelligence suite. It also announced availability of the Kace 3000 appliance, which extends client management to smartphones and tablets, and some new consulting and support services.

Toad for Business Intelligence Suite 2.0 will be available later this quarter, priced in increments from US$9,995 for five named users, up to $49,995 for 50 named users, Dell said. Additional users are $1,295.

The head of Dell's software business, former CA Technologies CEO John Swainson, is due to lay out the plans at an event for press and analysts in San Francisco Wednesday. Product details should be posted on Dell's website later in the day.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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