Six selected journalists got the chance to spend half an hour of the closing minutes of Dell Technologies World 2019 with the man himself, Michael Dell.
It’s probably no surprise for our readers to learn that before interviewing most executives, journalists are often asked to submit their questions in advance. It was no different in the case of Michael, we submitted them before flying out to Las Vegas. The problem was that being a technical publication, our questions were technology specific, and they had all been answered deeply in the content of the event presentations we had attended over the preceding three days.
Questions about cloud strategy, plans for the data protection business, integration with Azure had to be thrown out the window, and as we sat waiting for Michael to come into the small meeting room to face our questions, we had to go back to the drawing board with what to ask him.
Michael came in, and for a man that must have been in back to back meetings with analysts, journalists and customers for three days running, he was surprisingly amiable. When the first question asked was about market size as compared to Dell’s results in India, his one-word answer of “Yes” showed firmness in his answers and was ready to get going with the rest of the interview.
We decided to move away from product specific questions and wanted to see if an industry titan like Mike could offer words of advice to people from the emerging economies of South Asia as to how they could leverage powerful new technologies such as AI and ML. We didn’t quite get the visionary answer we were looking for, Michael focused more on explaining how he empowers local execution around products and technology.
“We operate in 180 countries around the world. Our teams on the ground are charged with the possibilities of localising our business. We have a big set of products that we have developed and importantly we have partners that often give us that last mile of specialisation that is required to understand how customers can use our technology in a local context. It’s up to our local teams and partners to figure out how is that best applied to each country’s market. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in each country so I can’t tell you exactly.”
We also questioned Michael on the level of responsibility companies like Dell need to take for the powerful technologies they and others are starting to make available to anyone. Our point was that legislation could not keep up with technology, so is there an ethical responsibility that falls on companies like Dell to stop powerful technologies falling into hands that can use them for bad?
“I think we do. I think it depends on what you’re actually doing. So, if you own data and you’re using customer data and that’s somehow enabling something bad to happen, I think you have a different duty of care and responsibility that needs to be attended to. Look, if we as companies end up doing things that are enabling bad outcomes, we know there will be regulatory (issues). So, we have to think about everything we do, including the materials that we use and how we think about the environment and the sustainability of our products. If we don’t anticipate bad things that can happen, we are not doing our jobs correctly. There are some pretty active imaginations out there. Fortunately, most of what’s going on with technology are overwhelmingly positive.”
We managed to get a little more granular, when we asked what the Dell game plan was for public cloud going forward. We felt that the announcements about the cloud at the show such as VMware on Azure had been really positive, but wanted to know if Dell would embrace other cloud platforms such as Native Azure in the same way they are embracing VMware cloud foundation?
“We are an infrastructure provider. Certainly, VMWare has a bulk of opportunity but not everything. There are customers who want to use our infrastructure of hardware products and use a variety of other software, operating systems, platforms, tools and we embrace that and move on. You can see a wide variety of partners and ecosystem companies that are demonstrating more infrastructure products, running all kinds of pretty much everything. We do sell more servers than anyone on the planet. You can be sure; it runs on everything that’s out there.”
Finally, we got the chance to see if Michael saw any specific threat from Asian giants like Huawei and Ali Cloud.
“Ali Cloud is a partner we have with VMware. We have a VMware cloud foundation in Ali Cloud. There are many competitors out there and some of the competitors in China are tough competitors.”
Unfortunately, the clock was against us, so we will have to wait another time to get more insight into how he views the competition coming from the Asian giants in his space.
Thirty minutes with Michael Dell flew past and whilst we were left wishing we could double up the time, it was still valuable to get a direct glimpse into his thoughts. In the end, even though what Michael Dell says is important, its actually what Dell technologies does that really matters. When you consider the gargantuan task of integrating the Dell Technologies family of companies and getting the people from each entity aligned behind a single and coherent vision, we have to say Michael Dell and his team are doing an impressive job.