Bill Gorden on Dell’s tablet turnaround ‘We learned people want a sexier consumer product’

by David Needle

October 29 2013

"More and more tablets are getting to the point you can do as much with them as you can with a PC," says Dell's Bill Gorden.
"More and more tablets are getting to the point you can do as much with them as you can with a PC," says Dell's Bill Gorden.

As Dell’s Executive Director of Tablets, Bill Gorden is responsible for the planning, launch and roadmap of the computer giant’s tablets. This interview kicks off a new TabTimes' series with top executives from tablet manufacturers with insights about where the tablet market is headed. Gorden touched on a number of issues including what features Dell thinks are important for tablet users and what the tech giant is planning next.

TabTimes: As a long-time Microsoft partner, Dell was among the first to release Windows 8 tablets. Now you have a new redesigned Venue line. What did you learn from that first round? 

Bill Gorden: Over the past year what’s been really successful is people want the commercial capability we introduced with Latitude 10. That’s why we expanded with Atom and Intel’s Core i so we can offer entry level to super powerful to most secure, and most manageable tablets.

How about on the design side? 
We learned people, including business customers, want a sexier consumer product. We invested in improving our design to thin and lighter with great displays. We also learned there’s demand for bigger screen sizes and that keyboard and peripherals are essential and we offer that. 

We also know users want to keep their devices light so our keyboard is very portable and on the consumer side we now offer an 8-inch tablet. 

One of the criticisms of Windows 8 tablets is that there aren’t enough apps. 
We are working with Microsoft to get more apps out there. We’re bullish on what’s going to happen with Windows 8.1. 

WIth more people accessing files and content from multiple devices the cloud becomes more important. One of the things we’re able to offer is PocketCloud for accessing your Windows or Mac desktop and have access to your content and apps from an iOS or Windows device.

(Choosing your next tablet: The operational advantage will be one of the key sessions at the upcoming TabletBiz conference & expo, a special one-day event coming to New York on November 13, 2013)

On a big picture level, with Michael Dell in charge and Dell about to go private (It became official today), is this business as usual or is Dell as a private company going to be signficantly different? 

I think if anything it’s a boost to us. What you’re seeing is a new emphasis of the importance of end user computing to Dell and part of that is the consumer business. A lot of our communication has been about the commercial side which is still very important to us and our strong suit, but we’ll see consumer as well and that’s tablets. It’s a big boost in the tablet space all the way around.

Dell’s not in smartphones, but one thing we’re seeing with Samsung and some others are phablet devices that are kind of hybrid tablet/smartphones. What do you think of phablets?
I think the phablet is still very much an in-between device. We have our 7- and 8-inch products that are very portable, but they are not voice products.

Dell and a few other companies released Windows RT tablets last year, but now only Microsoft is making them. Did Dell get a clear message from customers that ‘We don’t want this’? 
The big thing for us about RT is we found we gained a lot more traction on Windows  8 and now there is a lot of excitement for Windows 8.1. We have not said we are out of the RT market forever. 

Now that there are so many Windows 8 tablets out there, what are Dell’s distinct advantages? 
A couple of things. On the commercial side, we’re doing everything we do on the PC side, so our tablets are more secure and manageable around Dell data protection and encryption and they work with our different management systems. We have an extensive portfolio of IT and management solutions and support programs as well as custom apps and other customization options for commercial customers.

You also now offer a very low cost Android tablet. Besides the competitive pricing what’s the distinction there? 
On the consumer side we offer premium phone support and rapid return for accidental damage. If you break the unit we’ll replace it. 

There is no real killer app when it comes to tablets. What do you think is the primary thing that makes them so popular? 
Tablets are a great companion device, you can take everywhere. Also, more and more they are getting to the point where you can do as much as you can on your PC. If you’re a CAD designer, sure the horsepower isn’t there, but for the majority of the population that’s browsing and doing email, and working with Office docs, you have a great deal of capability. 

Can we expect a broader tablet portfolio from Dell in 2014? 
You will definitely see a broader tablet portfolio. I also think we will continue to do better at the basics. We’ll get thinner and lighter and improve our designs. We’re also going to take advantage of some great processors coming out next year that even toward the low end are going to be phenomenal. 

You can also expect Dell to leverage our cloud portfolio, keep improving PocketCloud, integrate with more cloud services both inside and outside the firewall. Look for security and manageability advances, even at the lower end on Android devices. 

(For exclusive news, trends and insights about the tablet market, sign up for the free TabTimes Daily or TabTimes Weekly Best newsletter)

David Needle is Editor of TabTimes and based in Silicon Valley.
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