Michael Dell
Michael Dell takes the stage during Dell EMC World at the Austin Convention Center in Austin on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. PHOTO: Dell Inc.

AUSTIN — Michael Dell owns the future of computing.

Not really, of course. But that was the feeling he tried to inspire in the many gathered at Dell EMC World who listened to the chairman and CEO of Dell Technologies talk about the role that he and his company will play in the next Industrial Revolution. Think of him as this millennium's Henry Ford or Andrew Carnegie and of the new revolution being digital.

Rise of a Digital Dawn?

Yesterday Dell stepped out in front of a crowd of 8000 technology executives, industry analysts and Dell EMC workers as the Doors "Break on Through (To the Other Side)" blared through the speakers. He played a quick clip from last year's Dell World during which he had uttered five simple words during his keynote, "Go big, or go home," referring to the company's recent announcement that it had agreed to acquire EMC for $67 billion.

Needless to say, Dell didn't "go home." The CEO was all smiles yesterday as he pointed out, "We're still here." He referred to this point in time as "the sunrise of a new era" and of Dell EMC leading businesses, big and small into the "digital dawn."

Betting on a Hybrid Future

Some like AWS CEO Andy Jassy, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and even Oracle founder CTO Larry Ellison believe the future is the cloud. It would be difficult to find anyone who thinks that they are wrong.

But you have to give it to Dell: servers, on premises storage and PCs will still exist. 

"The future is hybrid," Dell insisted during his talk, meaning that some information will live in company data centers and other information will live in the cloud. And if he has his way, Dell will own everything not in the cloud. (HPE CEO Meg Whitman and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty may have something to say about that.)

"We are number one in everything, all in one place," Dell said, bragging that Dell Technology companies are number one in 20 Magic Quadrants. Earlier he had claimed, "If it's not number one (a Dell owned product), we sold it. So there you go."

This may not be exactly true. It's doubtful that Dell sells more PCs than anyone else. 

Dell clarified his statement in a post-keynote press conference, "We're number one in PC revenues. We're not number one in units," he said, explaining that Dell sells the bigger (more expensive, more powerful) PCs. "By the way, we also have the most profit," he added.

Newest Members of the Dell Family Move to Cloud

It's worth mentioning that two Dell-owned companies partnered with cloud vendors this month. VMware announced a partnership with AWS and Pivotal shouted from the rooftops about its availability on Google Cloud Platform. In a hybrid world, these aren’t either/or plays mind you.

What is interesting to see is how big Dell’s addressable market might be and whether Dell has placed too big a bet.

Analysts Offer Their 2 Cents

CMSWire asked Constellation Research analysts Holger Mueller and R. "Ray" Wang for their two cents.

"At this point Michael Dell is transitioning from the king of legacy computing in the 20th century to defining what compute means in the 21st century. How he manages his acquisition portfolio and what he divests will tell us if Dell EMC will be transformational or just managing legacy budgets. We will have to wait and see," said Wang.

Mueller said, "It depends on cloud adoption speed. We all don't know how fast it will happen — but recent indications are fast."

He pointed to the VMware and AWS partnership which will help move loads off on-premises (where Dell runs), SAP picking AWS for BW/4HANA, and Success Factors availability on Azure.

"Those moves will all make the move to cloud faster which means less on premises sales for Dell Technologies," Mueller explained. "When Dell can claim a single serious Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) player equipping a new data center with Dell Tech gear, I'll be happy to change my mind," he said.

So let's just say that Dell has made a huge gamble on the size of its role in the Digital Era. We will have a better idea about whether it was a good bet by the next Dell EMC World which will be held, appropriately enough, in Las Vegas.