Michael Dell said it didn't take long to realize the value of markets beyond the United States.
"We started the business in 1984," Dell said during the Dell World 2014 show in Austin, Texas, last week. "In 1987, we were expanding outside of the U.S."
The CEO was talking to a group of five international journalists—from such places as Brazil and India—as well as a reporter from eWEEK. During a wide-ranging, 45-minute discussion, a confident and combative Michael Dell touched on his namesake company's role in what he called the "data economy," competitors such as Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo, and his company's continuing evolution into a full-fledged enterprise IT solutions and services vendor.
However, the bulk of the meeting centered around Dell's opportunities in emerging markets, which he said are more vast than they are in such established regions as the United States and Western Europe. These markets have some of the fastest growing companies, a lot of economic growth and many people, he said.
"When you're talking about the next billion users, they're not going to come from developed markets," Michael Dell said. "They're going to come from developing markets."
About half of Dell's revenues come from outside of the United States, he said. Like most other tech vendors, Dell sees the potential in emerging markets like China, India and Brazil, countries with huge populations and growing middle classes that have disposable incomes and businesses that want to compete in a world market and are looking to technology to help them. Michael Dell said that, from Asia to South America, the signs for his company are positive. For example, pointing to Brazil, he said the market there for Dell "looks very favorable."
The potential can be seen in the much-talked-about Internet of things (IoT). According to Cisco Systems, there are about 25 billion connected devices in the world right now. That number will double by 2020, and continue to rise after that, officials with the networking giant have said. And it's not just the devices themselves that define the IoT; the amount of data that will be generated by the Internet of things—data that needs to be collected, stored and analyzed—will grow rapidly. Cisco officials predict that by 2018, the amount of mobile data traffic worldwide will hit more than 30 exabytes a month.
It's a global phenomenon, one that can be seen in countries around the world, Michael Dell said. He pointed to the smart city and smart education initiatives underway in India as examples. Dell's efforts in becoming a complete enterprise solutions provider—from the PCs and tablets on the edge through the networking, storage and servers in the data center to its cloud offerings—will enable it to meet the changing demands both in the United States and worldwide, he said.
"I'm excited about the … data economy," the CEO said. "I truly believe all this data can determine outcomes and results. We are just scratching the surface of that opportunity."
In response to a question, Michael Dell said PCs will continue playing a key role for his company, echoing comments he and other Dell executives made throughout the three-day show. PCs are important for everything from customer acquisition to having a complete enterprise offering. Despite the declining sales worldwide over the past three years—due in large part to the growth in popularity of tablets—PCs are still a fundamental computing tool for much of the world's population. That is even truer in developing markets, where hardware continues to be a high priority. Businesses in these countries still need networking and other technologies, "but they start with the basics," Michael Dell said.
"If you give people the tools they need to make them more productive, you give them a PC," he said. "Maybe not just a PC; maybe a PC and a smartphone. But the PC [is important]."