AUSTIN, Texas—Dell and Hewlett-Packard, two of the world's top PC vendors, have been among the hardest hit by the decline of PC sales in recent years. However, while both vendors these days are touting their enterprise expertise, executives continue to stress that PCs will play key roles in the future of their companies.
Since first announcing in February his intention to buy his namesake company and take it private, CEO Michael Dell has argued that PCs are a contributor to the vendor's efforts to become an enterprise IT solutions provider and that he will continue to invest R&D dollars into Dell's client portfolio.
Michael Dell reiterated that Dec. 12 here at the Dell World 2013 event, saying that two out of three corporate customer relationships start with the PC.
"The PC continues to be important, important to customers and key to Dell's strategy," he said during a press conference at the show.
Michael Dell's comments came a day after HP CEO Meg Whitman said her company, which held its HP Discover show in Barcelona, Spain, this week, will continue to invest in both commercial and consumer client products.
"There's going to be some changes in this marketplace, and we hope to be a competitive force," Whitman said during an interview with CNBC.
IDC analysts earlier this month said that worldwide PC shipments this year will fall by 10.1 percent—more than the earlier projection of a 9.7 percent decline—as consumers and business users continue to spend more of their money on tablet and smartphones.
HP, Dell and other tech vendors that play in the PC space—including chip maker Intel—are looking to counter the decline with new form factors, including 2-in-1 systems that can be used as a laptop or a tablet. Analysts have a wide range of opinions about whether such products can be successful.
However, both Dell and HP are aggressively pursuing traditional PCs, new form factors and tablets. They also include tablets and virtual PCs in their lineups of client portfolios.
"If you look at a lot of people with tablets, they have tablets with keyboards," Michael Dell said in an interview with eWEEK. "A tablet with a keyboard feels a lot to me like a notebook."
HP's Whitman said she separates her company's PCs into the highly competitive and price-pressured consumer side and the more lucrative commercial business.
"In the commercial business, we've got a tremendously strong lineup because we can go all the way from virtual desktops to workstations to desktops—by the way, desktops are not dead—to laptops to hybrids to tablets for the commercial enterprise," she said.
HP will continue investing in both, Whitman said, adding that the company will be careful in deciding where and how to compete "because there's no point in not making money."
In the third quarter, both HP and Dell saw PC shipments increase slightly (1.5 percent and 1 percent, respectively) over the same period last year.
Michael Dell during the Dell World show argued that while PC shipments are declining, there are still 500 million units shipped every year, and that Dell sells millions a month.
"For a dead business, that's pretty good," he told eWEEK.