Dell (DELL), which rose to prominence in the 1990s with its mass customization of consumer PCs, has changed strategies with Windows 8 from Microsoft (MSFT) to emphasize just three products and the enterprise market.
At a launch event in San Francisco last week, the company rolled out a desktop, laptop, and tablet that it said were designed around the needs of corporate IT, which needs to squeeze value from dollars but doesn't want to lose control of employees who want to bring their own devices to work.
What is left of the desktop market is now called an all-in-one. The phrase was used in the last decade to mean a printer that doubled as a fax machine and scanner. Now it means a unit whose CPU chassis fits inside the flat-screen monitor case, something that originated with Apple (AAPL) (just as the Ultrabooks did).
There are no longer any questions about chip speed or memory. Every PC out there now has plenty of both for any common application -- the only exceptions are gaming computers, like Dell's own Alienware line. What Dell is pushing is a relationship to enterprises that buy a lot of gear, expecting that its service and support will make it the standard within an organization, and figuring that its gear is good enough.
The all-in-one unit, dubbed the Optiplex, can be used as a kiosk or cash register. The Latitude tablet and notebook are aimed at the home user or line worker. All the computers sport Intel (INTC) chips inside. (Intel Inside is one thing about the company that has not changed.)
But what investors need to take away from this is that Dell is focused on the business market, not the consumer. The company hopes things like Salesforce.com (CRM) consulting will prove valuable, and that it can make money from its former Perot Systems consultants, where Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) failed with EDS.
Dell is an enterprise computing play, and if you think that's a growth market you may want to go there. I thought so myself a few years ago, and lost a few thousand dollars betting on the company. These days, I don't see any growth there and would recommend you put your money somewhere else.
Feel free to disagree.