One of the more interesting announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show this week was Dell's Project Ophelia, a key fob sized PC from the Wyse acquisition that should change both what thin clients are and where they will be used.
However, Project Ophelia also showcased something Dell does better than anyone else at the moment: acquisitions.
Nondisruptive Acquisitions: Wyse Succeeds, Palm Fails
The worst acquisition of the last decade had to be Hewlett-Packard's acquisition of Palm. After a $1.2 billion purchase of what was at time one of the few companies capable of challenging Apple-that is, with the potential to become a $200 billion company-HP did what Apple couldn't do and destroyed Palm.
In contrast, when Dell bought Wyse a few months ago, it had no impact on Wyse's ability to introduce new products. In fact, Wyse has been enhanced through access to Dell's logistics and sales channels. In short, a company that cost far less than Palm and had far less ultimate potential is worth more today than Palm because HP and Dell use very different acquisition processes.
Any executive who doesn't study Dell, and instead uses the more common, far less successful acquisition strategy, shouldn't be an executive. (Consistent with this conclusion is the fact that the Palm acquisition, in part, cost former HP CEO Mark Hurd his job.)
A theory called confirmation bias argues that people really see only things that agree with the positions they have already taken. This helps explain why more companies aren't emulating Dell. Given how many jobs and careers are at risk, I hope executives will begin to change their ways this year.
Project Ophelia: An Enterprise Pocket PC for the 2010s
Dell's Project Ophelia is an aggressive client technology for this decade. It isn't really a thin client, though. It's a full Android device able to run the full suite of Android applications. With the right screen host, it can be used offline as well as online.
Think of Ophelia as an iPod Touch with no screen or battery but with an HDMI plug, which means it can be powered from the socket. (It has only a 2 Watt power requirement). Ophelia can then be used to plug into a cloud service that supplies the applications, communications and management that any device would need to function. It has Bluetooth support for keyboards and mice, too. Since it's an Android device, it will support touch, which suggests that it could be used to provide a cloud-hosted, low cost solution for the Lenovo table-top PC form factor also launched at CES. This could be ideal for collaboration projects.
This product is initially targeted at, and will do best in, emerging markets that need low-cost PC solutions that can be provided by local carriers to small and medium-sized businesses and consumers. Enhance Ophelia with Dell's security and management properties, though, and the company has a unique client that's enterprise ready-provided Dell can overcome some of Android's inherent security problems. This last point suggests that there's a slight possibility we'll see a Windows RT version of Ophelia in the not-too-distant future.
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