How the COVID Crisis Has Helped Create a Renaissance of the PC

eWEEK ANALYSIS: The 100-year pandemic has fundamentally influenced the ways that people and businesses utilize technology tools and solutions.

Dell XPS 15-17

Disasters impact people and organizations in different ways. Some wither and fall under enormous pressure while others rally and hold on. Still others discover unexpected capacities and characteristics that can help them not just cope with seemingly overwhelming events but thrive to explore new options and opportunities.

These dynamics can similarly impact commercial technologies and products, including personal computers. In a discussion with Tiffany Wallace during the recent Dell Tech World Digital Experience, Sam Burd, president of Dell’s Client Computing organization, discussed how the COVID-19 global pandemic has impacted the company and customers, and is leading to new behaviors and trends driven in large part by Dell’s innovative client solutions and services. This “Renaissance of the PC,” as Burd called it, is helping organizations, including Dell, reinvent themselves and the ways that they do business.

Business tech in a pre- and post-pandemic world

Not surprisingly, most commentaries related to the impact of COVID-19 on business focus on the massive damage that companies, industries, communities and whole economies have sustained. Indeed, it is likely that some sectors and many organizations will either take years to recover or fail along the way.

However, the pandemic has also fundamentally influenced the ways that people and businesses utilize technology tools and solutions. A year ago, mobility was a central focal point for most vendors and many of their customers, leading to ever lighter and smaller form factors. That made sense for businesses whose employees worked wherever they happened to be—in the office, in restaurants and coffee shops, while traveling or at home.

This “user-centric” approach to task enablement evolved organically, allowing workers and their employers to dynamically adapt to utilizing highly portable IT devices, including smart phones and tablets for a wide variety of tasks once relegated to traditional PCs. But changes necessitated by COVID-19 also altered how people mostly working from home (WFH) use technology and what they and their employers need from those devices.

The fact is that WFH is a far more static process than most people expect and requires employees to adopt and employers to support new and different functions and applications. Mobility is certainly still important, but moving a laptop from a home office to a dining room table bears little resemblance to lugging it to a Starbucks or packing it along on a business trip.

Smartphones and small tablets are fine for informal video calls with co-workers, friends and family but are often inadequate for team Zoom calls or large group briefings. In some cases, a desktop-scale display and dedicated camera/microphone offer far better results for business communications. In many situations, companies prefer higher levels of performance and security that standalone or consumer-grade devices can support.

The PC Renaissance

These and other points have led to what Dell and Sam Burd are calling “the Renaissance of the PC.” In many cases, this relates to new and evolving features the company is building into its Latitude, XPS, Precision and other workplace solutions. As Burd noted, these include “notebooks that seamlessly switch between Wi-Fi and 5G” and that feature built-in enterprise-grade security. Burd also pointed out how Dell is using machine learning to “get to know” how users are working with laptop and desktop systems, then use that data to optimize the performance of specific applications and functions.

Burd also described features designed to tame issues and events that are all too common in working from home. “So, who doesn’t have issues with background noise?” he said. “I see it on the calls with my team and with customers—things going on in the background. Sometimes those interruptions are fun, and you discover things about your co-workers or customers that you might not know. But we have audio intelligence capabilities where the system can tune out background noise and make the experience as close to a professional environment as you can have.”

Unifying the workplace

Developing new PC features is just one aspect of Dell’s efforts to smooth the way for companies supporting remote workers. For example, the company’s Unified Workspace portfolio offers companies a wide range of services and solutions companies can use to deploy, secure, manage and support client devices. To simplify deployments, laptops and desktops can be pre-loaded at Dell factories with core applications, shipped directly to employees regardless of location and be ready to use right out of the box.

Users also have access to security applications and solutions from Dell, SecureWorks and VMware/Carbon Black. Dell Client Command Suite and VMware Workspace ONE can be used to simplify endpoint monitoring and application management. Customers also have the choice of Dell’s telemetry driven ProSupport for PCs and ProSupport Plus with SupportAssist for monitoring client devices and ensuring they are in top working order.

“We’re helping customers manage their devices in a really modern way,” Burd said. “That includes making things simpler for organizations that have lots of issues and helping them keep their environments secure. When companies put technologies to right use, they can keep their employees motivated, capable and productive. We’re also offering them payment flexibility so customers can either buy physical systems or buy them as a service on a per-user basis.” These are particularly important issues for small- to medium-sized businesses that have been more severely impacted by the pandemic than larger enterprises.

Enabling new world workplaces

Dell’s strategy and solutions also have larger and longer-ranging implications. “We’re seeing a transformation from work being a location—a physical place you go every day—to becoming an outcome,” Burd said. “All the discussions I have with customers and our ongoing research points to a really different way of operating for companies going forward. If you look at pre-COVID behavior, about 20 percent of the global businesses supported remote work or work from home programs. Post-COVID, something like 50+ percent of the world’s employees will be working remotely or in a hybrid kind of mode.”

Those programs, Burd believes, “will require technology to bring them alive. Building intelligence and capability into those systems. Building collaboration tools that allow people to stay connected better than ever. I think it will be an interesting and new world where, instead of automatically returning to where we were before, we will instead help businesses and people to operate in new and different ways. Whether technology is in your house or your office, it will require continuing innovations like those Dell is developing and enabling.”

Final analysis

Being adaptable is vital when it comes to survival, evolution and success. However, rather than being some innate characteristic, adaptability can be learned and supplemented with access to innovative tools and services. As Sam Burd illustrated, Dell Technologies is helping businesses and their employees survive the current challenges of COVID-19. In addition, Dell will continue working to assist organizations and individuals thrive in a world where work and workplaces change fundamentally but remain productive and profitable.

Charles King is a principal analyst at PUND-IT and a regular contributor to eWEEK.  © 2020 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.