The Six Five – On The Road with Ed Ward at Dell Tech World

By Patrick Moorhead - May 31, 2023

On this episode of The Six Five – On The Road, hosts Daniel Newman and Patrick Moorhead welcome Dell TechnologiesEd Ward, President, Client Product Group.

Their discussion covers:

  • Ed gives us a look into his role with Dell Technologies
  • We discuss how Dell’s end-user portfolio has evolved to meet the needs of customers in today’s flexible work environment and what makes Dell different in its approach to the Future of Work
  • Ed shares insights into where Dell is doubling down in terms of innovation
  • How Dell is modernizing the customer journey with new offerings like Dell APEX, Managed Device Services, & PCaaS

Be sure to subscribe to The Six Five Webcast, so you never miss an episode.

You can watch the full video here:

You can listen to the conversation here:

Disclaimer: The Six Five webcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this webcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded, and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors, and we ask that you do not treat us as such.


Patrick Moorhead: Hi, this is Pat Moorhead and The Six Five is on the road, live at Dell Tech World 2023 in Las Vegas. You can just feel the excitement. In-person events are back and I love it. I mean, Dan, I really loved going into the big keynote and seeing all the people in the stadium. I love that. It never gets boring for me. It’s always exciting.

Daniel Newman: If you’re the punctual type, that gets down early and gets a seat, it’s an amazing experience. And if you’re me, and you tend to show up to everything somewhere between 1 and 15 minutes late, it was actually brutal because it was so full this year, I couldn’t get a seat. But if you’re doing an event, that’s what you want to be in. Let’s just say day one, day two, action packed, floor, wall to wall, big topics. We were doing cloud, PC, device, AI, sustainability Pat, it was a good event and the energy is back.

Patrick Moorhead: It is, and one of the biggest topics out there is the Future of Work. I mean, if you think about how many different ways that has been defined. Pre-pandemic, it was defined as one thing and then it was the, okay then, everybody’s going to be remote and then we’re going to come back and do a quasi-

Daniel Newman: It’s a pendulum.

Patrick Moorhead: Exactly.

Daniel Newman: Did you say the “Futurum” of work?

Patrick Moorhead: I could. I should say that next time, give you a plug for your company. I’ll do that. But anyways, let’s introduce our incredible guest here. Ed Ward, how are you doing?

Ed Ward: I’m doing great, Pat.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it was great to see you on the big stage, baby. I love this stuff and I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and I still get super excited. But it was great to see you up on stage there.

Ed Ward: Oh no, it felt great. I mean the team does great work with the products and the Future of Work and so getting a chance to get up and talk about what they do, and especially starting with, “Hey…” You can talk about all the technology, which I’ve been in the technology industry for 36 years, so I’m an engineer, so I love it. But being able to say, “Hey, we start with the customer and what really is going to work for them?” And then track it back to, “What can we do in the technology now to enable that?” That’s what’s really cool.

Even today, on the business side, but you really can’t take the engineer out of me. I still love that stuff, so talking about it’s just awesome.

Patrick Moorhead: Love it.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, we’re going to do that here Ed, and by the way, the part of Jeff Clark’s keynote when he had Gen AI, he was asking for Jen Felch, your CIO. I thought that that was-

Patrick Moorhead: That was funny.

Daniel Newman: That was really funny.

Patrick Moorhead: That was good. I liked that.

Ed Ward: That was really funny, had a couple of laughs out of that one, and it’s good when you can be really smart and funny. It makes us-

Patrick Moorhead: Well it’s like an engineer that’s an extrovert.

Daniel Newman: Extroverted engineer.

Ed Ward: They’re rare.

Daniel Newman: Is that a thing? Is that you? Let’s just see.

Patrick Moorhead: I’m pretty sure that’s you.

Ed Ward: I’m a rare one.

Daniel Newman: Well let’s start there a little bit. You indicate, what is it, 36 years? 36.

Ed Ward: Yeah.

Daniel Newman: Okay. You don’t look that old, to your credit.

Patrick Moorhead: No. No. Seriously, he said that and I’m doing the math, and I did find out that we did work at one of the same companies.

Ed Ward: Yes we did.

Patrick Moorhead: Which was amazing, but I…

Daniel Newman: Which one?

Patrick Moorhead: But no, I can’t believe you’ve been working. I mean you’ve been working since you’ve been 12?

Daniel Newman: Ah, he’s aging gracefully-

Ed Ward: I appreciate that. I appreciate that.

Daniel Newman: … here.

Ed Ward: I appreciate that compliment here.

Daniel Newman: Less flirting, more asking questions.

Patrick Moorhead: We both worked in NCR.

Daniel Newman: Did you?

Patrick Moorhead: That’s great. Yeah.

Daniel Newman: Interesting. Interesting. So give us a little bit of the background. What has filled those 36 years and what are you doing here at Dell?

Ed Ward: Sure, so hey, what I do here at Dell is I’m president of the client product groups. I’m responsible for all of our PC products, defining the roadmap, getting the engineering to make that happen. And then the operational piece, not the manufacturing, but the operational piece around program management, the quality, the regulatory items, the product data, all of those things I do. Some of it I do on behalf of the company, not just behalf of our client organization. So that’s kind of my remit at Dell.

I’ve been at Dell for 23 of the last 28 years, starting as an engineering manager and then moving up the chain from there and been in technology since 1986, back before you had Verilog and VHDL and RTL code and all that, back when you had light tables and you built your own transistors. So back on 1.2 micron or a 1200 nanometer, for those of you out there that use… Nanometers was state of the art technology.

Daniel Newman: Were you out of diapers then?

Ed Ward: So I’ve been there for a long time. I was just getting out of diapers so I am a child of the apes.

Daniel Newman: Yes.

Patrick Moorhead: I love that.

Ed Ward: I’ve been doing this a long time.

Patrick Moorhead: So gosh, if I go all the way back and look at how the Dell portfolio has evolved, I mean it’s stunning how it’s done. I’m curious from your point of view, how has the portfolio evolved to meet these new needs of the Future of Work, which by the way, the Future of Work is hard to define. It’s a hard thing to do and optimize for, but running products at one point, you have to cut and lock in on specific design. What has changed? What has evolved in the product line?

Ed Ward: Well the biggest thing that’s evolved, I’ll start with this, we start and end everything with our customers. What’s really changed is the nature of work, which is something you’re trying to get done versus a place you’re trying to do that. If you think back before the pandemic, we have what we call these personas, because we really look at workloads and what are people doing in workflows? And then try to group those into areas to your point, because you can’t have a product for every workflow.

Patrick Moorhead: For sure.

Ed Ward: So as we did that we said, “Well hey, you got people that are in the halls, you have people that are traveling, you have people that are just producing work engineers,” and so it was based around where they were doing work. Right before the pandemic we said, “Do you know what? We really need to flip that on its head and really talk about what it is we’re doing, because mobility actually matters for everybody.” Then the pandemic just took that to a whole nother level.

So what we’ve done is we’ve really focused-in on what are the workflows, what are the work people are trying to do? Whether they’re a business builder and they’re building their business, they’re accounting executives, they’re on the road a lot. Whether they’re a specialist, they’re an engineer, designing an airplane wing or whatever it is they might be doing, or a connector, somebody who’s in project management, connecting different people and what types of things do they do and how do we build products for those areas and so that’s really changed. And what that’s led to in our portfolio is pretty much thinner and lighter everywhere, it matters. That doesn’t mean it’s the thinnest everywhere, but it’s a thing we think about for each product and then being very specific about the level of performance that we’re putting in, so that that’s needed there, so you can hit the right price points and really delight the customer.

At the same time, be able to simplify it for IT with security and manageability items and sustainability. Like I said on Monday, we used over 55 million pounds of sustainable materials in our products last year. So in our packaging and the Latitudes is a hundred percent recyclable already, seven years ahead of schedule. So those are all the three triumvirates if you will that we focus on, that’s really changed.

Daniel Newman: So you’ve gotten some pretty good attention Ed for Project Luna. You talked a little bit about the materials and what you’ve done and processed, but of course that’s the next era, looking at how to build something modular that’s super sustainable. We had a conversation about sustainability here too with Cassandra, big topic. But you talked about thinner, you talked about lighter. What’s the curve of innovation ahead? What do you see coming down the road that’s going to be really driving Dell’s next wave of PC innovation?

Ed Ward: Sure. I think one of the big things that’s going to drive in and was talked about yesterday, if you think about generative AI and you think about what’s going to happen with that and how that’s going to really change the way you interact with your pc, okay? Whether it’s typing on a keyboard, whether you’re doing search or whether you have chat bots or whatever it might be, that’s really going to change the interaction with the PC. Which is really something we talked about four or five years ago, is we talked about the PC really getting you and really understanding what you’re looking for. Maybe even not having a screen and things are just popping up. So we’re not there yet, but I think that interaction is what’s going to drive the innovation in the PC to make it easier for people to interact with their PC, and for it to be able to deliver what they need even before they know they need it.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, I was fascinated with some of the features that Dell had early on with optimizer and even predictive and proactive maintenance, which was using machine learning algorithms to literally tell you before something might go wrong with the device and actually send out a part before you even knew that that was going to happen. And then different elements of optimizer.

But I am very enthused now that the microprocessor providers are just about to put these gigantic NPUs into, and regardless of whether you’re Qualcomm and Intel or an EMD, it’s all coming. I am really looking forward to that because, quite frankly, I think what we’ve learned, regardless of the type of the AI, is that a lot of that has to happen on the device itself. It’s decreased latency and a lot of people aren’t comfortable throwing everything up into the cloud to be worked on. So I’m especially looking forward to that.

Let’s move to PC as a service. So Dell is no stranger to PC as a service. You’ve been offering that for a few years now. I just did a writeup of your latest, which was the Apex Managed Service for Small Business, 70 bucks a month, which is essentially, leave the driving to us. It makes perfect sense for a small business. How are you modernizing this as a service journey and really upping your game in services? Because I don’t care if it’s in an Uber, groceries, IAS at a public cloud vendor, people love the flexibility of services.

Ed Ward: Oh absolutely Pat, and that’s one of the reasons again why we announced Apex. We started talking about it a few years ago and it’s really becoming alive now, especially in the client space, starting to become alive and people want flexibility. They want areas where they can have predictable costs but yet they can still get the latest and greatest technology for their employees or for their business so they can drive productivity. More and more they want to focus on, “Hey, I want to focus on my business and have the technology be there in the… I know it’s there but I want to focus on technology. I want to drive the business,” and we want to be able to help our customers achieve their goals and really focus on their business, and so we said, “You know what? We have to deliver that capability.”

So they have the flexibility, they have the consistent cost they can be thinking of, but yet they can have the latest and greatest technologies and we’ve really integrated that all throughout it. One of the things we heard from the customers is that some customers are like, “Hey, I’m not ready to go there fully on the managed journey with you, but I do like the flexibility and the cost and being able to do that,” and so they asked us actually to keep those things separate. So if you want it all together, we’ll sell you both. If you want to buy just one or the other, because that’s where you are on the journey, then that’s fine too.

I mean Michael started this company 39 years ago really listening to customers and delivering what they needed in the best way possible and we’re still doing that today.

Daniel Newman: So we have just a few minutes left and appreciate you making the time here. We know it’s a crazy week for you. I saw one of your peer executives sitting down responding to an email Ed, and I stopped him and I’m like, “You can do that here?” Because the pace that they keep you on to have five minutes to do anything. Because there’s so many customers here, so many partners here, everybody wants to have a chance to talk to you.

Future of Work though, we alluded to it and we’ve really leaned into it through the lens of the PC and that’s the world you live in. But I imagine you have to be thinking about what the Future of Work looks like more broadly. AI, new profile, hardware, full vertical stacks. I’d just love to get… Since this is probably what you eat, drink and sleep all day. What do you see as the Future of Work looking like now that we’re back in physical events? We still have PCs, we still have phones, but you’re hearing things about wearables, you’re hearing things about some companies maybe coming out with something that could be AR. We heard the metaverse came and then we heard it died. I don’t know. What do you think is ahead for us? What is work going to look like in the next few years?

Ed Ward: Well that’s a great question and it is like Chuck said at the keynote, the answer is, there’s not one answer.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah.

Ed Ward: Right?

Daniel Newman: Safe too.

Ed Ward: That’s really the answer.

Daniel Newman: It’s a good answer and a safe answer.

Ed Ward: So that’s really it. But seriously, look, at the end of the day, we believe in the pc. We believe that the PC will transform. It may not look like the PC of yesterday, but fundamentally, will you have a device that you need to be able to get productive things on, or you also want to have some creativity on, or you also want to play games or whatever on, we still believe that device is going to be essential. It is the essential productivity device and in the client group we speak in the language of productivity. Whatever that productivity is, as well as for work or for play.

Now what that device looks like, how the screen is, how you interact with the screen, will those things change? Absolutely, and we’ll be driving that innovation. What I think’s going to drive that forward is as I started at the top, the interaction with your PC will change. That’s what will change and then we will address the device as appropriate to handle the best way you want to interact with it.

How do you… You want to talk to it? Do you want a gesture with it? Do you want to, whatever it is you want, you want to use your eyes, whatever it is you want to do, we will address that so that you can do that in the most effective way to really drive productivity. And productivity isn’t just about office productivity, it’s also about consumer productivity, student getting a paper done, whatever it is you might be trying to do. So we believe in that and like I said, the reports of the PC’s deaths have been greatly exaggerated.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, there’s some real wisdom in that whole thing and what I always like to say is, technology transition, it’s not about an or, this is about “ands.” Mainframes are very much a thing right now. Client server, workstations, that this notion that tablets were going to kill the PC. Well that didn’t happen and we now have tablets and we have PCs. So I think that what does happen, I mean we don’t have MP3 players anymore, that got subsumed into the phone, but technology really is about AND. I think there was going to be a lot of “ands” out there. We will see the metaverse for certain areas like training and things like that. Digital twin makes perfect sense. Yeah, we’ll have to see what the future holds for-

Ed Ward: We may still want to come to events and see each other.

Patrick Moorhead: Exactly.

Ed Ward: Swimming in the meta social world.

Patrick Moorhead: Exactly. That’s right. Exactly. So Ed, I want to appreciate it. I really thank you for spending time with us. It is hard during these busy times, I know, to sit down, but getting your point of view. I mean Dell is the largest… I mean you guys are crushing it in market share. I think I heard 10 straight, 10 straight years of share gains, and profitable share gains too, which I think puts an icing on the cake if nothing else says, Dell PCs are doing a lot of things right. Thank you for coming on the show.

Ed Ward: Thank you. Really appreciate you guys coming to Dell Technologies World and thank you for inviting me.

Daniel Newman: Let’s have you back soon, Ed.

Ed Ward: All right.

Daniel Newman: And everyone out there, we hope you enjoyed this conversation with Ed Ward. We hope you tuned into all of the Dell Tech World conversations here, on The Six Five, on the road, Patrick Moorhead and myself, we always appreciate you tuning in. Hit that subscribe button, watch all of our shows every week, including our Friday show. But for this episode, it’s time to say goodbye.

+ posts

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.