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Here Comes Dell?
Dell appears to be close to announcing its entry into the smartphone market, according to Saturday's story in the NY Times business section. A smartphone would allow Dell to greatly expand its traditional market boundaries and reduce its dependence on personal computers (a product category facing diminishing profit margins and potentially declining sales).Smartphones are in process of replacing personal computers (desktop, notebook, et al) as the primary user interface to information and media, and are also on track to supplant the desktop telephone instrument in commercial installations. There is little doubt that the days of the wired desktop telephone instrument for many enterprise communications system users are numbered (although the number is measured in several thousands).
With a smartphone as part of its product portfolio Dell continues to slowly inch its way into the enterprise communications market. Back in October Dell and Nortel signed an agreement whereby the computer supplier will become a key sales channel for Nortel, gaining access to Nortel's entire Enterprise Solutions portfolios. Dell will also provide a suite of professional services to support unified communications and will leverage the Nortel Express Service portfolio.
Dell has been increasing its expertise in voice communications and unified communications through its worldwide Microsoft Consulting Practice, and must be seen as a potential future strategic competitor to the traditional voice system suppliers. Dell can become a major channel for Microsoft's OCS 2007 solution that threatens to disrupt the current market equilibrium between communications systems suppliers and desktop application software providers in favor of the latter. Dell can certainly bring the hardware elements (servers, switches, desktop and mobile user terminal interfaces) to the solution, and Microsoft the software.
The competitive landscape of the enterprise communications market is quickly changing and it's very likely that more than a few of the Old Guard PBX suppliers can be pushed aside during the next few years. It took Cisco a few years to establish itself as a recognized viable market player, and it will also take time for Microsoft, IBM, and a company like Dell to do likewise. If and when they do will certainly be interesting times for companies like Avaya and Siemens who have been seemingly forever (in one form or another) as customer premises voice system providers.