Dell Shows Off 'Smart Desk' for Artists, Architects

The preview of the system comes a week after HP unveiled Sprout, an immersive system that includes touch-screens, scanners and cameras.

Dell smart desk PC

AUSTIN, Texas—Dell officials are giving attendees at the Dell World 2014 show here a look at future innovations around PCs, such as a "smart desk" that includes multi-touch LCD screens, a digital touch-enabled workspace and a stylus.

The company unveiled the concept Nov. 5 amid a range of other efforts in the PC business—including a new business tablet and greater management and security capabilities within its software suite—and a week after rival Hewlett-Packard introduced the Sprout, which brings together a scanner, depth sensor, high-resolution camera and projector to create a single device that officials said will give users an immersive experience and enable them to merge physical objects into a digital workspace.

Both Dell's smart desk—which officials said will have Precision workstation performance—and HP's Sprout are aimed at such users as engineers, digital artists and architects, with the goal of giving them the tools they need to be more productive.

"The Dell smart desk provides a work surface that aligns closely with the productivity requirements of professional software applications," Rocco Ancona, a Distinguished Engineer in the End User Computing CTO Group at Dell, wrote in a post on the company blog.

At the show here, Dell officials have been vocal about the recent success of the company's PC business—a 9.7 percent increase in global shipments in the third quarter, and a 19.7 percent jump in the United States—and the importance of clients in Dell's larger ambitions around becoming an enterprise IT solutions and services provider.

CEO Michael Dell said during a press conference Nov. 4 that despite sharp declines in worldwide PC sales over the past three years, "we still believe the PC is the way business gets done." The CEO also took a shot at HP and the decision by executives there to break the company in two and separate its PC unit from its enterprise businesses.

"To be in the end-to-end infrastructure business, you have to have both ends, or else it's the end," he said.

Jeff Clarke, vice chairman and president of global operations and end-user computing solutions at Dell, said the company's 8-month-long struggle last year to go private reinforced executives' belief in the importance of PCs to what they are trying to accomplish at Dell, in everything from acquiring and retaining customers to the Internet of things.

"It's an important part of our end-to-end solutions," Clarke told eWEEK.

In his blog post, Dell's Ancona said that "although incremental adjustments continue to be made to keep existing products competitive, Dell often leaps ahead of the curve to provide customers with the next big thing."

Clarke agreed, saying that customers rarely ask Dell for a better PC. Instead, they're looking to the vendor for innovations that improve their productivity and fuel better business outcomes. Efforts like the smart desk as well as innovations around existing products are part of meeting those demands.

"I've been doing this a while, and I know there are very few home runs," he said. "This is hard work."