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Dell Introduces Mobile Enterprise Services

Expecting that more and more employees will personally own the smartphones and tablets they work on, Dell's service portfolio enables them to access critical enterprise data from mobile devices.

Dell has launched the first of its mobile enterprise services, hoping to grab a slice of the growing market for hardware, software, and services to help businesses deliver corporate data to an increasing number of employees with mobile devices.

Dell introduced its Enterprise Mobility Services portfolio Friday, offering customers everything they need in technology and services to let mobile employees access critical data on the road through a smartphone or tablet. "This is completely new for Dell," Mary Chan, general manager of enterprise mobility for Dell, said of the latest services in an interview.

In putting together the latest offering, Dell built on the IT services products it acquired through the $3.9 billion purchase of Perot Systems in 2009. The computer maker is also depending on partners' software that will run on Dell hardware. Chan declined to name the partners. All technology deployed through Dell mobile services will carry the company's brand and Dell will be the sole provider of support.

Dell's approach works on the assumption that companies will have to support multiple devices on their networks, with the Apple iPhone, Research In Motion BlackBerry, and Google Android-based phones being the most popular platforms. In many cases, the smartphones will belong to employees. In addition, Dell is expecting the use of tablet computers, such as the Apple iPad and several different Android models, to grow rapidly among corporate workers.

Dell's expectations are in line with those of analysts and rivals. IBM and HP are also moving aggressively in offering services for mobile computing, which analysts say will eventually supplant laptops as the mainstream channel for exchanging and analyzing information and ultimately making business decisions.

Dell plans to support a heterogeneous mobile environment by offering to deploy a mobile application server behind the firewall that will handle communications between mobile devices in the field and corporate data centers. Dell's mobile device management client, deployed on every smartphone or tablet, will request data through the server based on the user's access rights, Chan says. The client also works in conjunction with the server on whatever authentication mechanism the customer wants.

The server also will handle all the application processing, so IT departments won't have to develop applications for each type of connected device, Chan says. In cases where employees want to use their personal smartphones, Dell can partition the device's hard drive to keep corporate data separate from personal data. In addition, Dell services can deploy technology for erasing data remotely on lost or stolen devices and set up location services to find devices. Encryption is also available for stored data.

Dell is not disclosing pricing, which will vary according to the level of service, Chan says. Dell is selling the services on a monthly or yearly subscription based on the number of devices accessing the network.

For several years, Dell has been expanding beyond its legacy as a build-to-order hardware maker into services and support, copying the model embraced years ago by IBM. Dell took a big step in that direction with the purchase of Perot. Other examples of hardware makers taking the same approach include HP buying EDS and Xerox acquiring ACS.

In an interview with Barron's last May, chief executive Michael Dell stated Dell's strategy clearly. "We are changing our business from being manufacturing-based to one that's focused on services and solutions. And no, we're not done."


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