Keep taking the tablets Dell

Let me just start this post by saying that professionally at least, I’m a happy Dell customer. I’ve built up a good relationship with them over the years, met senior Dell staff and we almost exclusively use their server & storage infrastructure where I work, we’ve used them for consultancy in the past, and I’ve been delighted with the results. This is not me hating on Dell.

But I am going to have to take them to the woodshed over a recent post by Andre Meier on their corporate blog, “Tablet matters – taking the right decision“. Now let me be clear about something – I don’t mind that Dell comissioned the whitepaper they’re basing their post on. I don’t mind that the whitepaper favours them somewhat (every IT vendor in the world does this so…) but I do mind it when the blog post and the whitepaper its based on descends into a farce.

If Dell think this is supposed to convince me then either they’re acting stupid or they’re acting like they think I’m stupid, and I’m not sure I want to do business with people who fall into either of those categories. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

Clearly they’re going after the iPad in this whitepaper rather than Android, and that’s fair enough – frankly from what I’ve seen of Android tablets during a trial at work, they appear to be about as useful as a roof-rack on a helicopter and about as reliable as my blog posting schedule. Say what you like about Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows 8 but I’ve never had to take a brand new one of them, fresh out of the box, home to connect to my home wireless network in order to install a patch that’s required in order to connect them to the “business-class” wireless network at work.

Principled Technologies / Dell’s faulty assumptions (some taken from the blog entry and some from the whitepaper itself):

While many enterprise IT departments have packages in house to configure and manage Windows devices, fewer have the mobile device management (MDM) tools that can manage iPads. As a result, iPad administration is often a series of time-consuming manual tasks.

This is actually a fair point if we’re talking about one or two people using iPads as BYOD devices rather than as part of a centrally managed deployment, but the whitepaper is specifically talking about deploying 1000 devices. This is not a trivial deployment, and IT departments are unlikely to undertake it without considering MDM as part of the roll-out.

We’re just trialing a mix of about 30 Android and Apple tablets where I work and we’ve already researched the alternatives and opted for Meraki‘s MDM tools, as they were “cross platform” between iOS, Android and Windows.

We could have chosen to use Windows inTune, which plugs into the SCCM 2012 infrastructure we’re already using to manage Windows (and Mac OSX clients with some help from Parallels). At the time we chose SCCM 2007 as our Windows 7 management platform, we also evaluated a product called KACE tools and I just checked their website and yes, they have MDM services available too.

Now remind me who the vendor behind KACE is again. Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Andre? Oh that’s right –

So if you’re running Dell’s preferred Windows management tool, their own KACE tool, you already have MDM. If you’re running SCCM from Microsoft, Dell’s partner on the Dell Latitude 10 tablets they’re pushing via this whitepaper then you already have access to MDM tools via Windows inTune, and if that’s not good enough for you then you can access free, cloud based management tools like the Meraki one we’re using.

Ok but that’s just one place where Dell pretty much contradict themselves, I’m sure it won’t happen again. So moving on…

Printing is $5,000 cheaper, as the Latitude 10 doesn’t need printer workstations to print.

Oh wow. That sounds serious. I guess things like this “mobile print” stuff doesn’t work then. You know the company who sell that stuff must be ripping us all off. I’m just glad that this Dell whitepaper was here to save us from… hmmm wait a moment… what was that URL again?

Wow. That’s twice now. Still, no one’s likely to notice, eh Dell?

I could go on and pick at some of the more obscure holes in the paper, and I should in all fairness point out that they make a reasonable point about iPad battery replacement:

Latitude 10’s battery replacement can be done in seconds on-site by a company’s desktop support staff – while iPads have to go back to Apple. If half of batteries require a replacement over the three years, that adds up to a lot of iPads going back to Apple – and not in the hands of staff in the meantime.

This is a clear point in favour of the Dell device, though I’m not sure I agree with their “50% of batteries” claim, a lot of Apple enthusiasts are sneering at this point with a “worrying about battery replacements are so yesterday dude” kind of attitude, which to me just goes to show that they don’t appreciate the differences between them looking after their personal devices and the the sheer scale that comes from looking after several thousand devices that we face in enterprise scale networking.

There are points to be made in favour of the Dell device here – it’s a full copy of Windows 8 and therefore can integrate into a domain properly, can run the full version of MS Office, etc. It’s only running an Atom processor so I wouldn’t fancy dropping Adobe Creative Suite onto it but  you could if you really wanted to.

There are enough reasons to favour Dell’s approach and they could talk about these instead of trying to make flawed claims about Apple’s approach. Don’t tell me how bad your rival’s product is because I’d like to decide that for myself (and don’t worry Dell, as much as I love Apple as a choice for personal devices there’s plenty of flaws in their approach to business that I’m very well aware of as they burn me every day). Instead tell me more about how good your own product is.

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