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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Michael Dell on Global Strategy and Emerging Market Focus

michael-dell-techaisle-blog-2

Michael Dell is one of the very few CEOs I know that walks the hallways with almost no posse of overprotective PR and communications personnel. It was therefore no surprise that in my meeting with him he walked into the room unassumingly and on time to discuss his vision and focus on the Emerging Markets.

Much has been written about how happy and relaxed he looks after privatization. For me, however, the tell-tale signs of tranquility and a zip in his walk first appeared two years ago when he announced Dell’s intent to be an end-to-end solutions provider for businesses of all sizes. He had a roadmap to reach the flag at the end of a long, unpredictable race-track. And he knew that he was at the starting gate with the right set of acquisitions. He just had to make everyone believe in Dell.

Fast forward to present, privatization has emboldened Michael Dell and his entire leadership to take their message on the road that the new Dell is “100% customer focused, providing best value, ease of use & flexibility” aligned to the four tenets of Dell solutions – Transform, Connect, Inform, Protect.

Michael Dell is “Investing to Accelerate” around five key areas, one of which is the emerging markets, the topic of our meeting.

    1. Invest to expand solution offerings (R&D plus M&A plus Venture Fund)

 

    1. Enhance & Simplify customer experience

 

    1. Increase pressure in emerging markets around the globe

 

    1. Grow PCs, tablets and virtual computing services

 

    1. Expand sales force and channel relationships to better serve and support customers



Dell as a company made several major announcements at its recently concluded Dell World 2013:

    • Public cloud ecosystem partnerships with Google Cloud, CenturyLink, Microsoft Azure

 

    • Dell Red Hat OpenStack partnership for co-engineered enterprise-grade OpenStack private cloud solutions

 

    • Partnering with Dropbox to enable businesses and their employees work in a mobile work-environment while providing the security and manageability with Dell’s data protection solutions

 

    • Dell FluidCache for  SAN storage delivering over 5 million IOPS in a converged infrastructure of storage, server and networking

 

    • Revamped PartnerDirect program giving partners bigger profit opportunity than ever before – access to tens of thousands of Dell accounts

 

    • US$300 million Strategic Innovation Venture Fund to help identify, fund and fuel visionary technologies that anticipate and address future IT needs



Not all of the above announcements are applicable to and can be used by businesses in the emerging markets immediately. Therefore, I began our conversation by asking him if there is a difference in his strategies for established and emerging markets and what top characteristics defined his emerging market strategy.  Michael Dell recognizes that in many emerging market countries, there are essentially two markets (upgrade in automated environments, greenfield in businesses that are not yet automated) and therefore he has to gear up to address their needs accordingly and investing in localization of products and services for the emerging market buyers.

Looking back at my discussion with Michael Dell, I see one strategy but three approaches that are critical to Dell’s growth in emerging markets.

PC Led Go-to-market Approach

Regain its hegemony in end-point devices (excluding smartphones): by building innovative end-user computing products at extremely competitive prices. In countries like China, India and Brazil. Dell is aggressively opening its own Dell stores for customers to experience the products first-hand. Michael Dell does not view todays IT landscape as a post-PC era. He reminds me that when the term was first coined in 1999, approximately 100 million PCs were sold, but in 2012 over 300 million were sold, defying the very notion of the PC fading from view. “It certainly is not a post-PC era”, he insists.

Techaisle Take: It is certainly the right entry-point into most businesses. With global PC market slowdown, PC market penetration will continue to be driven by emerging market countries with new business formation and increase in PC to employee density. Our research shows that there are 1.26 billion addressable households in emerging markets but only one in four have a PC. Similarly, there are 44.7 million SMBs in emerging markets, but only two in five have a PC. Both of these figures indicate a huge opportunity for new PC sales as there are still 26.4 million SMBs and 994 million households that have yet to buy a PC – a huge gap indeed. Dell will need to exert more pressure than other PC OEMs in terms of customer pull: creating demand through marketing, and relying on its own stores and channel partners to close prospects after they are engaged.

 

Many of the emerging market countries are embracing mobility faster than established markets which create unique challenges for Dell to push its Tablets in the face of high adoption of Android and iOS devices. Market share of Android and iOS tablets vs. Win8 would seem stacked against Dell but one should not discount Dell’s expanded tablet portfolio including Android OS and Dell Chromebook plus well-received Win 8.1 tablets. Dell also has had emerging market success with Dell Wyse cloud clients and new opportunities with ultra-mobile cloud devices (Project Ophelia/Dell Wyse Cloud Connect) – all of which create customer entry points for Dell. Additionally, Dell’s mobility strategy extends beyond Dell-branded devices and includes software and services to ensure that any device is secure, manageable and reliable, part of the end-to-end solutions strategy.


Channel Partner Led Go-to-market Approach

Grow with channel partners:  Channel partners are the essential cogs of the IT landscape, especially for the SMBs that are so important to PC growth – and this is truer in the emerging market countries than established markets. Dell plans to continue to recruit channel partners that align with Dell’s value proposition and can add business value to a customer’s needs by giving the customers choice of best-of-breed solution components. The recent announcements of the revamped PartnerDirect program and the corresponding re-organization of its channel organization were made to address the changing needs of the channel partners across all geographies. Apart from growing the channel base, Dell is also planning to increase spending on sales/marketing within the emerging markets thereby creating enough pull in the marketplace to enable channel partners not only sell more but also sell more effectively within and across its channel friendly solutions - PowerEdge VRTX, Storage, Networking, Software, Thin Client, Workstations, and SecureWorks. However, not all solutions, especially, software solutions, can be sold without proper localization; Dell recognizes this, and is investing in R&D to make sure that products and solutions are enabled for the emerging market countries.

Techaisle Take: As per Techaisle research there are over 340,000 channel partners in emerging market countries. To support growth Dell has to have a rich landscape and integrated fabric of channel partners that are moving in unison with Dell as its trusted supplier. As Dell moves to create better alignment with the channel, it needs to be mindful of two interesting changes that are occurring within the emerging market channel partner community – members now refer to  themselves as solution providers, (not as VARs, SIs, or resellers), and they have started calling their customers “clients” much like a consulting organization would do. To be successful in emerging markets channels, Dell has to capitalize on these changes. It also has to quickly develop a timeline for the roll-out and implementation of its new PartnerDirect Programs and Incentives for countries outside of North America. Dell may not be able to make bold statements of how many accounts have been opened up (similar to the US) for collaborative sales efforts with channels but at a minimum it has still to identify named accounts that are being transitioned to channel-led, and a compensation accelerator to incent direct sales force to work with channel partners.


Solution & Services Led Go-to-market Approach

Provide end-to-end solutions for businesses of all sizes: No end-to-end solution portfolio is complete without software and applications. After a long slog, Dell software is finally coming together with its systems management offerings covering BI for IT, mobility management, data center management, cloud management as well as “connected security” that reduces the seams in a customer’s infrastructure. The software solutions are being complemented by Dell Services (which was given more visibility at Dell World than ever before, with keynote sessions led by services). Dell has achieved some great successes in countries like India within the healthcare segment, but it has still a lot to work on. In emerging markets as in North America, the mid-market segment is the primary target for Dell’s end-to-end solutions.  As Michael Dell said, “it is not easy to put feet on the ground effectively and uniformly across all countries”. He also said, “Many new change vectors are going on and Dell has the ability to understand where the puck is going”. Taken together, we at Techaisle view these statements as outlining an approach where Dell will commit resources selectively to high-growth segments within the emerging economies.

Techaisle Take: Dell is almost at the finish line with its converged solutions that include storage, security, servers and networking, the services needed to deliver end-user solutions that help businesses compute in environments with pervasive data access. Growth in sales of this type of sophisticated solutions in emerging markets cannot be cracked without the support of channel partners. Dell has to articulate a message that serves the needs of customers of hybrid solutions that combine server, storage and networking hardware with systems management and security software to seamlessly support application delivery, data protection and backup. By offering a wide range of product types, and focusing on making the selling motion as clean as possible, Dell can enable its partners to focus on customer requirements rather than product silos.

 

One early indication of the force of this direction is the fact that Dell has finally been able to put a stake into the ground with its cloud strategy. To put forth the point more forcefully Michael Dell said, “When you go with Cloud, go with Dell”. Dell’s mobility strategy has also started to take shape with aggressive roll-out of devices and its EMM (Enterprise Mobility Management) solution that includes both end-point and container management. Dell is still working on its Big Data/Analytics strategy. But more importantly, Dell clearly hits 7 out of Top 10 2014 SMB IT priorities and addresses 7 out of Top 10 2014 SMB IT Challenges. It is also in a strong position to speak to the Top 10 2014 SMB Business Issues.


Final Techaisle Take

Emerging markets are more complex than we usually imagine, having a mix of mature and very immature segments based on local infrastructure. For example, Tier 1 cities are akin to US as a country – they are advanced in their infrastructure development and employment and have a high GDP while Tier 4 cities are fast developing, less populated, in some cases even rural. When we analyze our SMB (a segment that Techaisle tracks globally) survey data across cities we see that SMBs in Tier 1 cities are the early adopters of cloud whereas Tier 3 and 4 cities although aware of cloud are constrained in their adoption by channel competency and vendor penetration. Reliable and high quality bandwidth is a critical factor in bringing the benefits of cloud to local business, one that underscores the importance of central government investment in telecommunications infrastructure and Internet access. Dell recognizes these challenges and short-comings, and the new Dell is primed to aggressively address the challenges.

There is yet no clear leader in the emerging markets in cloud, mobility and Big Data solutions. Specifically with respect to the SMB segment and the channel partners that serve it, the new IT solutions of cloud, mobility, social media, virtualization and analytics are rapidly moving SMBs from enablement to empowerment. Using technology, SMBs are reaching their full potential in the shortest period of time possible. The process of an SMB’s growth and steps to absorb IT are no longer steady and predictable as compared to five years ago. Understanding the drivers of SMB transformation and the relevance of cloud-based IT, and marketing to both customers and channels accordingly, will be critical steps in enabling Dell and its channel partners to achieve market success.

Over the last 2-3 years, Dell has heavily expanded and calibrated its enterprise solutions capabilities and more recently doubled down on further investment in its PCs and Tablet business. As the company has adjusted the levers of these key drivers for its business, it appears that these two critical areas for Dell are coming further into balance. Post-privatization Dell has begun the process of finding its feet on the ground and it knows where it wants to land. It will be a year before we will know if Dell has managed to land firmly or has caught the slippery slope.

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Revisiting the Apple Predicament – What's Next?

This article from the New Yorker brings out several good points about how Apple has lost some of its luster over the past months, but is still in good shape on fundamentals, although it did drop to below $400B market cap a few days ago. As we noted in December, Apple was coming under criticism for not being able to scale to demand for the latest iPhone launch and had several other hiccups to deal with, including questionable worker conditions in China and that its principal manufacturer, Foxconn, was rumored to have begun discussions to pick up the slack by investing in new factories in Brazil.

On the other side, Apple was in a bitter legal fight with Samsung, an important supplier and competitor (frienemy), and could not get an injunction to stick after a lengthy lawsuit. A recent ruling in the case reduced damages awarded to Apple from $1.05B to $600M and the appeals process is ongoing. Another cause for concern in our opinion was that Apple had slipped to 6th place in the China mobile segment (the world’s largest and fastest growing major market), where local manufacturers Lenovo and Huawei were eating up share regardless of how much manufacturing was being done by Apple locally. Samsung leads the handset market in China, underscoring another competitive issue – in Korea, Apple is considered the most prestigious handset and it sells very well in the market, while Samsung is considered a premium brand in China due to early and broad Consumer Electronics investments by the Korean conglomerates; Samsung chief among them. China also has affinity with Korea based on the hope they can emulate the incredible economic growth shown by Korea over the last 25 years.

It was looking a little grim, but as noted at the time, Apple’s considerable war chest of almost half a trillion dollars was adequate to stave off short and medium term threats, however, as the above article notes, competitors are closing the gap and have introduced increasingly sophisticated models, most notably Samsung, with its’ Galaxy S line, which is seen as the strongest challenger to Apple’s technical leadership. Samsung’s newest version, the S IV is expected to be introduced this month, and in an example of raising the bar, is rumored to include “eye scrolling” technology.

Device OS Market Share History

 

The Big Picture

Apple has always been in a market crowded with well-funded competitors. Keeping the OS and architecture closed had major implications to the development of Apple, as seen above Apple never gained more than a 10-12% share of the OS market during the 1980-2000 boom of the PC market, which eventually forced them to accept both MS Office and Intel into their products to remain viable and while keeping a stubbornly loyal following for computing devices. It was really when Steve Jobs applied his design genius to a series of personal mobile devices starting with the iPod, which displaced the Sony Walkman, that Apple found a large enough consumer base to really explode onto the scene. iPhone followed with several versions and then the iPad was introduced in 2010 and the rest is history as they say…

The point here is that Apple became the largest technology company by using high-quality, high aesthetic design principles that allowed it to survive in the PC segment and applying them to a new category in the market: coveted personal technology devices that displace Phone, PC, Camera, Voice Recorder, Wristwatch, GPS, Media Player, Personal Planner, and other single use devices/apps combined into a single, small footprint high-tech productivity tool.

While Apple survived the PC Wars, many (including myself), gave them little more than niche player status and came close to counting them out altogether. The current situation is similar in a couple ways as Apple looks forward, but instead of Microsoft and Intel the arch rivals are Google and Samsung. The chart shows how WinTel dominated the PC segment from 1985-2005, squeezing Apple to 10% of the market. Currently, the rise of Mobile Computing brings hundreds of millions of new devices into the market, passing the threshold where Smartphones eclipse PCs in both volume and installed base within the next few years, creating an Android camp and an Apple camp. This has many implications for Apple, a few of which include:

Innovation: Apple needs to continue to innovate at a rapid pace. In the first 20 years of the PC market, consumers accepted a very high churn rate in both hardware and software categories because each generation was substantially more efficient and productive than the previous one. To prevent a backlash from consumers, Apple and other players are going to have to make fundamental improvements like very accurate voice recognition and new visual interfaces, not just new form factors.

Price/Performance: demonstrated Price/Performance increases in the bandwidth, applications availability and usability for less money will drive higher adoption. Again, looking back to lessons in the Personal Computer market, there was a long period of time where $2,000 was what the market expected to pay for a quality PC, and new models came out at a regular pace with faster CPU cycles, larger memory and storage subsystems, expanded OS and App capabilities, while keeping within the price range. This worked for a long time, until the market became too crowded and some vendors, led by Dell, overhauled their cost structure by cutting out the channel, using direct sales and a more tightly integrated and automated supply chain, giving back to the consumer in the form of lower prices - then it was a race to the bottom. Remember when the hot new vendor was eMachines?. The de-facto premium price-point that has been set for iPhones and iPads in the market is ~$700 and to maintain it there will be pressure to continue delivering more for the same price or less, as the slew of competitors undercut Apple’s premium.

How Many Form Factors?Cutthroat Competition: All of these segments are characterized by intense competition, and with Google’s ownership of both Android and Motorola brands, things become even more interesting in the handset segment. As Apple goes it alone against the whole market, similar competitive issues will appear as they did with PCs; many companies adding applications and value to a standard operating system (Android), diffusing the R&D costs among a whole ecosystem of suppliers while Apple concentrates on staying ahead of everyone by themselves. Ensuring a steady flow of high quality finished goods coming from China, concentrated among a relatively small group of suppliers, could also become an issue as trade friction, consumer backlash and other uncontrollable variables come into play in the global supply chain and domestic market.

As Apple looks to expand into Televisions there is a potential to tap into another ~$120B market, however, this is not going to be like the introduction of the iPhone; the market is mature and growing slowly, ironically dampened by the move to Tablet computers and Internet content, with a lot of heavyweight competitors led by #1 vendor in the world - Samsung. And Google is also waiting in the wings. Déjà vu all over again. If Apple can pull a rabbit out they may be able to add enough value to demand a premium in flat screen TVs, but that is going to be much easier said than done, the brand only goes so far when displayed next to a similar product priced 20% less on the Walmart showroom - Apple's retail success is based on a much different formula. No 35% margins here without the same kind of fundamental improvements discussed above; interface improvements, simple but deep integration with other devices and something like a super green carbon footprint on top of the demonstrated product superiority. Maybe.

Again, Apple proved very resilient as a survivor in the PC wars and many underestimated their staying power. The Market Cap remains near $400B and they have room to maneuver, it will just get harder over time, as it does for every company that gets to the top.

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SMB IT Spend: Emerging Markets Push European Countries down the Rankings

Top 10 SMB IT Market Rankings by CountryIn the first part of a three-part series, this post examines the growth of BRIC SMB IT markets, and their ranking relative to other markets. Here we will discuss the Top 10 markets from an SMB IT Spending perspective, and while it is well known that emerging markets grow faster from a smaller base, the absolute rankings of large markets tend to be relatively stable except in the case of exceptional growth, making it an important milestone. This is the case for China, in this forecast as it replaces Germany in its’ longstanding position of the third largest SMB IT Market. Other changes in ranking are that Brazil replaces Italy, and India comes into the Top 10 by the end of the forecast period. Korea displaced Australia as #10 in 2011 and manages to stay within the group throughout the forecast. The primary reason for this displacement is similar to that of other economic segments: sheer volume increase based on population and higher GDP per capita.

According to this Forbes article, the equity value of the BRIC economy financial markets peaked at 18% of the global value in mid-2011, and grew four-fold in the previous ten years. As a general rule, technology adoption lags economic growth and depends on many factors. This accounts for the slower climb up the rankings when compared with the overall economy, and is exacerbated by the fact that SMB IT adoption radiates from Tier 1 Cities to Tiers 2 and 3 as infrastructure allows.

China and Germany SMB IT Market ComparisonEven so, we can see the fundamental differences in the market structures between Germany and China shown in this graph, despite the huge volume increase in China. Germany demonstrates a much more mature mix of IT products and services, weighted toward value-added segments of Software and Services, while the China market remains very hardware centric; almost half the opportunity is still hardware devices by the end of the forecast period. However, China is different than many other emerging markets because it is not only strategic as an end user market, it is also critical as a supplier to the world and to its’ own domestic market. The history of the IT market in Asia Pacific, especially since introduction of the standard PC architecture, has been a race between US brands and local manufacturers whose production is adopted in the domestic market through osmosis along with cultural and distribution advantages. In the case of China, this is more serious as it becomes an increasingly important global segment; on one hand there is a push to open the market while on the other US giants like Apple, IBM, Intel and Microsoft become more reliant on the Chinese Consumer and Enterprise IT markets.

There will be increasing international pressure to make sure there is a “level playing field” in China, as we have seen from initial forays like the Huawei controversy earlier this year. PC maker Lenovo is going very strong in the global market, having reached the #1 vendor in unit shipments worldwide in a relatively short period of time, and snatching three times more domestic market share than the nearest competitor. Lenovo and Huawei have also pushed Apple to sixth place in the Chinese mobile handset market, despite Apple manufacturing tens of millions of handsets and tablets in China. Welcome to the global economy.

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Global SMB IT Spending in 2016 - Infographic

How big is the SMB IT market opportunity? What is the potential market size of mobility, cloud, datacenter, PCs/Tablets? What is the growth in spend in regions? What are average the spends per business? What are the key business issues?

That is the topic of our Infographic. Click the image to download.

Global SMB IT Spend is poised to reach ~600 Billion dollar by 2016. Worldwide, there are still 26 million SMBs yet to buy a PC, 30 million SMBs do not have a server; some of these may directly move to cloud. They are already using internet to a very large extent. Granted that many of them are less than 20 employees but they are not going to be static. Approximately 560,000 new businesses were started each month in 2012. About 10,000 of small businesses become mid-market businesses each year.

North America and EMEA are infrastructure, software and services driven while Asia/Pacific is product driven. North America has the highest average IT spend per business spend while Asia/Pacific and Latin America the lowest. There is a vast difference between emerging market and mature market SMBs in terms of average spend per business. It is also useful to note that while Asia/Pacific has the highest number of SMB cloud users, average spend per user is less than 1/5th of SMB user in North America.

In terms of business issues, SMBs in the US are focused on collaboration and communications. The three business issues feeding into this focus are reducing operational costs, focusing on new markets and improving effectiveness of sales and marketing. On the other hand Western Europe SMBs are concerned about workforce efficiency with focus on costs was a key driver for SMBs in in that region, improving workforce productivity (getting more out of the workforce) and reducing operational costs. On the other hand Asia/Pacific SMBs want to grow faster than the market and are constantly worrying about market penetration. If they do not act now, they think that the opportunity will slip by.

Download the Infographic (click on image) to get a great snapshot of SMB opportunity including spend on PCs/Tablets, Mobility, Cloud, Data Center, Security.

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