By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. January 11, 2017
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) often seems like a wish list of what vendors hope and pray will occur in the coming year. Occasionally their predictions are spot on but more often conference participants come off betting big on “trends” that fail or have yet to happen. Those include the constant flogging of wearables that’s occurred since 2014 or the flame-out of 3D television that conference leaders unsuccessfully promoted for half a decade starting in 2010.
However, some vendors build such a remarkable track record of market successes that when they venture into new realms it’s important to pay attention. Great examples of that can be found in the line-up of new, refreshed and entirely unique endpoint devices that Dell launched and previewed last week in Las Vegas.
Dell at CES 2017
Here are a few of the high points:
- Dell Canvas which the company says is the world’s first full-horizontal touch display, is designed to enable creators, including developers and designers across visual and audio, industrial design and engineering to naturally build and interact with content by using a “totem” instrument, pen and touch.
- XPS 13 2-in-1, the world’s smallest 13-inch 2-in-1, features a stunning InfinityEdge touch display that appeals to consumers and business pros alike. Dell’s XPS has won more product awards than any other device in the company’s history
- XPS 27 AIO and Precision 5720 All-in-Ones (AIOs) are designed to deliver the best sound quality of any all-in-one PC with new audio features designed in partnership with Jack Joseph Puig at Waves Audio. The new AIOs help music and sound creators build great audio for people watching movies or listening to music on their devices.
- The world’s first 32-inch 8K resolution display, the Dell UltraSharp 32 Ultra HD 8K Monitorboasts more than 1 billion colors and should be an important tool for professionals in photo and video editing, medicine and diagnostic research.
- Dell Precision 7720 Mobile Workstation, Dell’s most powerful and first VR-ready mobile workstation was designed specifically for VR content creation.
In all, seven Dell products received honors at the CES Innovation Awards ceremony, including the Alienware 17, XPS 13 2-in-1, 27 Ultrathin Monitor S2718D, XPS 27 All-in-One, Dell Canvas, Latitude 5285 2-in-1, and Premier Wireless Keyboard and Mouse KM717.
If any single thing summarizes the Dell solutions announced at CES it’s the way they underscore the continued blurring of lines between home and workplace. The company isn’t alone in its focus on this issue. In fact, even though CES is, not surprisingly, supposed to focus on “consumer electronics” major PC/client vendors, including Lenovo, HP, and Samsung all used the show to highlight new offerings for consumer and/or professional use.
Partly, that was a practical issue since many of the new solutions incorporate Intel’s latest innovations, including its new “Kaby Lake” seventh generation Core CPUs, and Thunderbolt 3 interconnect. As they have in the past, vendors initially leverage cutting edge technologies in high end/margin gaming PCs, workstations and executive notebooks, so it makes sense for Dell and others to use CES as a springboard for those product lines.
But it’s also interesting to note just how narrow the lines have become between consumer and workplace products. In many cases, that’s due to growing synergies between specific applications and use cases. For example, there have long been similarities between high end gaming PCs and workstations designed for advanced graphics development. As PC games have adopted increasingly sophisticated graphics, the differences between consumer and professional platforms have become harder to discern.
But users themselves are also contributing to this trend. When BYOD (bring your own device) entered the workplace lexicon in 2009, it reflected a growing reliance on digital endpoints among consumers, sparked, in part, by the introduction of Apple’s iPhone two years earlier. That coincided with the rise of increasingly digitally sophisticated consumers/workers who easily adapted to and adopted multiple devices, interfaces and operating systems.
Initially, vendors responded to this trend with products, particularly notebooks, that supported both workplace applications and consumer use cases, along with highly enhanced battery life. Over time, with the help of continuing technology evolution, that approach has resulted in notebooks and PCs of nearly every sort and price point sporting components, capabilities and features once reserved for luxury products.
However, as Dell demonstrated at CES 2017, higher-end innovation is still alive and well. The new XPS 13 2-in-1 and XPS 27 AIO both expand the limits of those form factors and should appeal to discerning consumers and business people. But it’s also worth noting how the company synergistically leveraged its design and development processes to deliver both home (XPS) and professional (Precision) versions of the same AIO form factor. For example, both solutions are similar in size and incorporate the same Waves MaxxAudio sound components, and 27 inch Ultra HD (3840 X 2160) Infinity Edge and capacitive touch displays.
However, while the XPS 27 AIO utilizes 6th gen Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and optional AMD R9 GPUs, the Precision 5720 offers computational options, including 7th gen Core i5 and i7, and Xeon E3 1200 CPUs, as well as AMD Radeon Pro GPUs. The Precision also incorporates other points critical to professional users, such as larger and more flexible storage solutions, broader communications features and options, and Dell’s full lines of enterprise-class security, systems management and support offerings.
The new Dell UltraSharp 32 Ultra HD 8K Monitor and Precision 7720 Mobile Workstation are aimed at still relatively nascent professional markets. The former is designed for creating or reproducing the highest imaginable quality computer graphics—a point that is certain to be appreciated by professional photographers and video editors.
But the UltraSharp 32 will also be valuable for a range of healthcare applications, including diagnosing CT and PET scans and other radiological images. The Precision 7720 Mobile Workstation fulfills two issues for graphics professionals: 1) the increasing demand for creating virtual reality (VR) content, and 2) the desire for or necessity of being fully mobile no matter what the graphics requirements of your job may be.
Finally, Dell Canvas, the first full-horizontal 27-inch QHD touch display offers a radical vision of workplace user interface evolution. Some have compared the Canvas to the recently (October 2016) introduced Microsoft Surface Studio. That’s partly due to both devices similarly supporting touch, pen devices and circular peripherals (Dell’s is a “totem” and Microsoft’s is a “dial”).
However, in contrast to the Surface Studio being a fully functional PC and considerably more expensive, the Dell Canvas is a sophisticated peripheral that can work in combination with nearly any Windows 10 PC. That should make Canvas easier for businesses and artists to afford, adopt and bring into creative processes. In addition, Dell has an impressive list of ISVs that are developing applications for the Canvas, including Adobe, AVID, Autodesk, Cakewalk, Dassault Systemes, Microsoft, Silicon Bender, SolidWorks and Stardock.
Most importantly, though, Canvas qualifies as a stakeholder for what comes next in how people work with endpoint devices. Touch-enablement has opened the door to new forms of interaction, like Canvas Totems. But if Canvas offers a glimpse of how the company is looking ahead, the future is likely to be populated with a wide range of innovative Dell solutions.
Overall, the new and enhanced Dell offerings announced at CES 2017 underscore the efforts of a vendor intent on addressing both the immediate and emerging needs of consumers and business professionals. There are many circumstances where those discrete requirements overlap profoundly. From what I saw at CES, Dell’s offerings are likely to satisfy its customers no matter what their needs are or when they arise.
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