I’ve recently attended Dell World, the newly private company‘s expo where attendees “gain insights into key industry trends, engage with industry visionaries, exchange ideas and learn how Dell is evolving to deliver the solutions of tomorrow.” Key words used during the conference were “Transform, Connect, Inform, & Protect”; amazingly enough, Dell managed to make the event interesting and fun.
Dell World attendees pay ~$700 to attend three days that have been jam-packed with personalized breakout sessions, networking opportunities, informative keynotes, and hands-on exhibits at the beautiful Austin Convention Center; there are even a couple of concerts and parties thrown in to keep everyone relaxed.
Our first evening’s event was a “mix and mingle” with Dell employees and partner representatives. This was an incredibly laid back event that included access to the Dell Solutions Showcase, where focus was put on “how the solutions offered by our participating partners fit into the full Dell solutions that our customers can use to improve their business. Attendees will see how a set of solutions and services comes together from beginning to end.”
While the showcase was loud from people talking to one another, and it was obviously busy, it didn’t feel overwhelmingly crowded or hectic like other expos I’ve attended. The exhibit room was large enough to comfortably accommodate all of us (with places to sit when we wanted to schmooze); the booths were spread out perfectly so that attendees could actually communicate with the reps manning them, and there were food and drink stations located throughout the room. I should mention that in one back corner there was a wall of donuts; the blue ones might have been especially delicious … and that is all I am going to say about that.
When the mix & mingle was over, it was time to check out the headlining act, Camp Freddy & Friends. On our way to the ballroom deeper inside the convention center, we walked by the Alienware booth which had a demonstration of the $449 Virtuix Omni being run on an Alienware system; now it was time to stop and gawk.
I’ll have to admit that I have never seen anything like this product (I missed the Shark Tank episode, evidently). You put on a special pair of shoes, strap yourself into a restraining belt, add a pair of Oculus Rift virtual reality glasses ($300 for the developer kit), and then you can actively participate in any keyboard-driven PC video game. I want one, and I’m not even a gamer!
Figuring that we would have more time to check the Omni out later, we headed to the Camp Freddy & Friends Concert further down the hallway. Since I had never heard of this band, I quickly Googled them and was surprised to learn that it’s basically a super-group cover band whose core members include Dave Navarro (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction), Donovan Leitch, Jr., Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, The Cult, Velvet Revolver), Billy Morrison (The Cult), and Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction). They regularly have special guests, which make up the “friends” part of the band’s name, and while Dave Navarro didn’t make an appearance, these rockers did: Steve Stevens, Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), Billy Idol, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Mark McGrath (Sugar Ray), and Corey Taylor (Slipknot).
Holy cow, does Dell know how to throw a party!
Most surprising? Mark McGrath nailed Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” … killed it!! Oh, and Billy Idol may be 58, but he is more buff than most men I know under the age of 30. Dang.
The next morning at 8am sharp, I was in my seat for the Dell World 2013 opening keynote. Michael Dell did little to contain his excitement about the fact that his company is now his again, and I can’t blame him for that!
In my opinion, one of Michael Dell’s most exciting announcements was that Dell will be coming out with a 4Kx2K monitor in 2014 for less than $1000; monitors with such high-resolution are now in the $5,000 range (!!).
Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal) was then brought out (in a hot red Tesla, natch!) for a Q&A. I am not sure if he wasn’t prepped very well or if he was simply answering questions candidly and off the cuff, but Elon came across as incredibly humble, daring, likeable, and not very intimidating. If any of you know better about what he is really like, do tell, but I left thinking he was our generations Howard Hughes — minus the crazy.
Musk mentioned two things that I either didn’t know or found surprising. The first was that in 2008 he couldn’t find any investors, and Tesla’s bankruptcy was imminent. He reinvested every dime that he had into his company, to the point of having to borrow living expenses from friends. Tesla is worth $17 billion today; obviously Elon’s risk was the right move.
The other surprising thing I heard was when Elon said was that he doesn’t get his news from any of the traditional outlets, because he considers them a “microscope on misery” (I agree); he gets his news from Twitter.
Elon Musk: he’s just like us! 😉
Here are some highlights from the keynote.
Afterwards, we had a bit of time in the Solution Showcase, which is where I got a chance to check out a Tesla Model S. I’ve seen them on the road in Austin before, but I have never been inside one; while owning a Tesla wouldn’t be very practical for my location or budget, I couldn’t help but wish …
Next up was a Customer Experience Roundtable and Design Lab experience, during which time we were walked through portions of the process that goes behind the material selections that Dell makes for their product components. There couldn’t have been more than 15 of us in the room, and questions were welcomed.
We were given real world examples of the exhaustive quality control processes used for seemingly simple things like laptop hinges and laptop screens (all of Dell’s are made of Gorilla Glass, by the way).
The dead soldier pictured below is a slice of aluminum that was used in an example of the damage that can occur when a large ball bearing is dropped into the middle of a seemingly strong material. As you can see, it dented up impressively …
The same test done on a Gorilla Glass sample caused no damage at all. Of course, when I’m unintentionally wrecking my device screens, it usually involves less ball bearing and many more corner-droppings, but I get the point that they were trying to make.
My next session was a nice change of pace: I’d been assigned to Dot Complicated: Conversation between Randi Zuckerberg and Moira Forbes. This was supposed to be a “women’s networking event”, but unlike past years they didn’t kick out any of the men who wanted to attend.
Our room was set up with intimate round tables, and yes — there was a lovely selection of hot drinks and sweet treats we could choose from.
Each seat had a copy of Randi’s new book, Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives for us to keep, and I have to admit that this was one of the sessions I enjoyed the most because the topic hits extremely close to home. Randi seemed incredibly forthright and friendly, and I plan on supporting her by purchasing her book in Kindle form.
Next was the afternoon keynote — with opening entertainment by the amazing DJ Ravidrums.
During the keynote, a formal announcement was made by Dell and Dropbox about partnering together to offer Dropbox for Business. This should be huge!
At a small mixer in the Solutions Showcase after the keynote, we had an opportunity to again look at items in the room and chat with several Dell employees and representatives about their current and upcoming products. I wasn’t patient enough to wait for one of these guys to give up their video game playing spot; they were having too much fun.
I was disappointed to find that the new sub-$300 Dell Chromebook had already been removed from its display, but KT Bradford had previously managed to spend some time with one.
The Chromebook will include a 4th generation Intel Celeron processor, a 16GB SSD, and an 11.6″ display; it’s aimed at the education market, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still want one.
After a late dinner, we showed up at the Dell & Intel party at Cedar Street Courtyard, just as the band was quitting and the DJ was getting warmed up. This is an awesome venue, and we had a lot of fun dancing and carrying on with the other attendees. Just like that, we realized it was after 1am; one pit stop at a street pizza vendor later, and we were on our way back to the hotel.
My last event was a Breakfast with Dell Leadership on Friday morning; the topic was Dell PCs, and at my table was Kirk Schell, VP of Dell’s Commercial PC group. Let me say again that I was blown away by the access attendees were given to various Dell executives throughout the event. Kirk brought up accessories for Dell products, and I asked him to further elaborate on that because I like accessories that are actually made to fit and work well with my devices. Kirk said that he tells his designers, because they are all also mobile road warriors, to use the process of thinking of what they want to carry and where it would need to go when they are planning their products; he agreed that people want accessories that match and work well with their devices, and Dell will be offering more of those.
Dell World is unlike any other conference I’ve attended; the planners managed to put together an excellent agenda loaded with fun and interesting events, and the smaller size of the breakout sessions and other meetings within the conference made things feel much more intimate, even though this was a huge event. It doesn’t hurt that Dell also had snacks and drinks available in between and during every session, so there was never an “I’m rushing, I’m late, I’m hungry, I hate my life” feeling like I’ve had at events like CES.
If you are interested in attending a gathering of “business leaders, CIOs, industry analysts, consultants and other IT professionals to share ideas, insights and best practices for making organizations such as [yours] more successful”, Dell World is a can’t miss. It offers time for “strategy and learning, not only from Dell’s solution experts and partners, but from business and technology leaders from some of the world’s most successful organizations.”
Disclosure: I attended Dell World as a guest of Dell’s and as a member of the media. Dell covered my hotel, parking expenses at the hotel, and meals.