Along with a move towards traditional desktop class workstations moving into the data centre, one of the major trends Dell is seeing in the workstation market is “the democratization of professional quality content,” according to Andy Rhodes, Dell’s general manager of Precision workstations.
“There are still some under-served markets in the workstation space where customers are using the wrong tool for the job,” Rhodes said. “Scalpels and butter knives are both knives, but one is a professional tool for a professional job.”
Carrying that analogy into the workstation market, Rhodes said there are too many people who should be workstation customers – engineers, video editors, finance workers – who are instead using a standard PC. There are a number of challenges with that, he said.
“They don’t have the power of graphics, they don’t have the memory, they don’t have the application certification,” he said.
While part of this problem is an education issue – short-sighted customers who choose cheaper PCs over a more appropriate workstation configuration – there is also a part of the potential market where price sensitivity is an overriding concern, and those customers simply cannot be swayed to a full-featured (and full-price) workstation due to budgetary constraints.
For example, Rhodes cites engineering students at college who would benefit from a workstation-class machine, but “have to compromise with a white box solution or something else that just isn’t up to the job they need to do.”
Likewise, Rhodes said there’s an opportunity to get more capable workstation-class machines into emerging markets, and even less senior professionals in large companies, who are frequently afforded less power or “hand-me-down” systems.
In the education and emerging market plays, Dell clearly hopes to build loyalty early. After all, today’s student buying a $1,350 mobile workstation is likely tomorrow’s professional engineer influencing the purchase of a top-of-the-line workstation worth multiples of that earlier purchase.
The M2800 is clearly a compromise machine, packing fairly beefy Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, AMD FirePro graphics with up to 2GB of dedicated memory, capacity for 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage into a 5.6-pound casing with a 15.6-inch screen. While certainly not as powerful as a desktop workstation system, or as svelte as some of the new Ultrabook-class mobile workstations, the M2800 does bring with it critical ISV certifications for common workstation applications including applications from Autodesk and Solidworks.
“It lets customers at the right price point get an ISV-certifeid mobile workstation so they know it will work on the apps they care about the most,” Rhodes said.
The M2800 carries a list price starting at $1,359.
It debuts as Dell is getting more aggressive with moving its workstation business through the channel. Internally, the company has included its workstations on a list of products for which internal sales reps actually get a 20 per cent bump in compensation for sales made through a value-added reseller as opposed to direct. And the company is also adding field resources to support partners, as well as a new rebate program, more lucrative del registration options, and a demo loaner/pool available to the company’s partners.
Mike Bradley, director of global channel marketing and planning at Dell, said the company is looking to grow its channel workstation business at between two and three times the industry’s overall growth rate.
“We’re investing as a company in the channel, and the workstations market is no exception to that,” he said. “”We rely on their industry expertise, and we’re spending a lot on partner training around our technologies.”