Dell Getting 'Bullish' About Tablets as Its Q3 Earnings Beat Estimates

Dell posted a third quarter that beat Wall Street estimates and offered assurances that structuring changes regarding its mobile devices represent "progress" it's pleased about.

PC maker Dell had a better-than-expected fiscal third quarter, announcing on Nov. 18 profits of 42 cents a share, or $822 million, and revenue of $15.4 million. The PC maker said the year-to-date revenue has grown 21 percent to $45.8 billion.

"Our strong results demonstrate that we are listening to customers and delivering what they want," Dell CEO Michael Dell said in a statement. "Dell is growing in the right areas, and I'm very excited about our momentum."

Dell has recently been working to break into the lucrative smartphone market, releasing first the Android-running Aero (also known as the Mini 3), then the Android-running Dell Streak, which it markets as a tablet. Over the holidays it will begin offering the Dell Venue Pro, a smartphone running Windows Phone 7 that's being marketed to both consumer and enterprise users. Dell's consumer group revenue saw a 4 percent increase over the quarter, despite what Dell described in its earnings statement as "muted consumer demand."

Ron Garriques, the executive behind Dell's mobile consumer products, will be leaving the company in January, the media first began reporting Nov. 17, following a company restructuring that dissolved Garriques' group, instead folding the devices into other units. On a Nov. 18 call with the press, Dell Chief Financial Officer Brian Gladden said the change was not at all due to Dell's mobile device business being "in a bit of a disarray," as one journalist suggested.

"I would say that this was a very positive [and] thoughtful move to take the mobility business and move it into the core structure of the company, so we're generally pretty pleased with the progress here," said Gladden. "We're optimistic about the products and the road map that we have, and think this is a chance to actually accelerate our presence and our growth there in the mobility space. So that couldn't be farther from the truth."

During a later call with analysts, Michael Dell was asked whether the management changes signaled any change in the company's strategy for mobile operating systems. Dell indicated that the company had no plans to favor one mobile platform over the other. "We are very much in the mobile space working with Android and Windows Phone 7 and are encouraged with the development of both of those and see them as great opportunities for us," Dell said.

Steve Felice, president of Dell's consumer and SMB group, told analysts that the company is also determined to build its tablet business. Dell sees a lot of potential in tablets and is "really driven to bring this capability into the mainstream of the business," Felice said. While over the last year the company did a lot of learning, Dell is now ready to be "more bullish" in its actions, he said.

"We want to mainstream the supply chain, the sales capability and the marketing capability ... and we see tablets having great potential, not just in our consumer business, but in our commercial business," said Felice. "So all of this is aimed at getting this more to scale in a faster way than we originally envisioned."

Going forward, Dell expects to see fourth-quarter revenue track slightly higher from the third quarter, as commercial demand remains stable with corporate clients continuing to refresh their PCs, while consumer demand "remains more muted."