Dell tablet, security efforts result in new 2-in-1 device

The latest Dell tablet includes security features that impressed IT industry watchers, but Dell’s product integration poses challenges.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Dell's work around mobile security and a new 2-in-1 tablet gives IT pros reason for optimism about the company's endpoint device business, but some want to see it move beyond integrations and innovate.

Dell wants to become a renaissance player in the computing market, and it continuously plugged its efforts surrounding mobility and security to attendees at Dell World 2014 here this week.

The company has added security features to the Dell Venue 11 Pro Series 7000, including two-factor authentication with smart card and fingerprint recognition integrated with other protections. Pricing for the Windows tablet starts at $699.99, and it will be available later this month.

IT professionals such as Kevin Schwartz, CTO of the Clear Creek Independent School District in League City, Texas, noted the optimism surrounding tablet and Chromebook growth. The school district last year deployed 30,000 Dell Latitude tablets to students, administrators and teachers and saved over $4 million using digital textbooks instead of traditional hardcover books.

Dell claimed that its PC shipments grew 10% in the third quarter, with revenue hitting $345 million, compared to the same time last year.

For most companies, mobility means more than just devices, and IT shops must consider technology from a holistic point of view, especially for security.

Certification and security has been acquired through the desktop world, but mobile is a completely different paradigm, said Prasad Thrikutam, president and global head of applications at Dell Services, during a mobile enterprise panel consisting of Dell CTOs and IT pros. For example, the GPS on a phone exposes so much, he said.

The combination of data security and end user management is perhaps one of the more difficult challenges for businesses worried about mobile data security.

"How do I take my data to whatever device I’m on and meet the right security policies?" asked Rick Schuckle, senior distinguished engineer and executive director at Dell Client Solutions.

It's a challenge to move away from the world of managing devices into the world of managing around the user and data, he said.

Making security transparent is not easy, but it’s a necessity.

“We want security to be invisible,” said Robert Dillon, director of technology at Affton School District, based in Affton, Mo.

End users do not want a disruptive experience, but the school district needs to make sure that its end users care about security, he said.

The new Dell tablet impressed at least one analyst here.

“For many, it will make for a great 2-in-1 device,” said Tom Mainelli, vice president of devices at IDC, an analyst firm in Framingham, Mass. “And with the keyboard attached, the battery life is truly impressive. The security is the icing on the cake.”

Despite making some headway with its mobile strategy, Dell’s product integration poses challenges, observers said.

“The mobile focus is on integrating existing solutions rather than developing new management capabilities,” said Steve Brasen, managing director at Enterprise Management Associates, an IT consulting firm in Boulder, Colo. “The most notable absence is a unified Workspace solution."

Others agreed and noted that Dell’s challenges lie not only in the integration, but also in delivering on its strategy.

Dell’s roadmap is strong, but it comes down to how well the company executes, services and manages a complete, integrated mobile solution, said Tim Bajarin, a longtime tech watcher and president of Creative Strategies Inc.

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