John Paczkowski

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Dell Will Drop the Flashy Vegas Act for CES This Year

Dell’s presence at the Consumer Electronics Show the past few years has been hard to miss. This year, it may be hard to find. Sources say the company is scaling back its participation in the annual trade show — drastically.

While it never had a big footprint on the floor of the show itself, for the past three years it has hosted media and showgoers in the Dell Suites — an entire floor of The Palms Casino Resort tricked out with the latest in Dell hardware. This year, however, the company is approaching CES with a bit more restraint.

It won’t be commandeering the The Palms’ Hardwood Suite to create a “smart living space.” Instead, sources say, Dell is opting for moderation, taking meetings in hotel suites and CES conference rooms and perhaps piggybacking on the keynote of one of its partners for a big product announcement (ultrabooks, anyone?).

So the company will still have some visibility at the event, just not the sort of high-profile, conspicuous-consumption-style visibility it has had in years past.

Why the shift? That’s not clear. Dell has had a very spotty record in the consumer gadget market dating back to its Axim handhelds and DJ music players. That has continued to its recent forays into smartphones and tablets. And the company’s attention has been leaning heavily toward the enterprise of late, which makes CES a markedly less useful event for it.

Indeed, speaking at the Credit Suisse conference today, Steve Felice, Dell’s president for Consumer, Small and Medium Business, said the company was looking to “prune” products to focus on more profitable areas. That message echoes comments made during Dell’s last earnings call when the company said consumer sales in the U.S. and Western Europe recently had led it to step away from “low-value” PC opportunities to focus more on servers, services and networking equipment (with a 6 percent drop in consumer revenue in the third quarter, that seems like a reasonable move). This undoubtedly factored in to the company’s decision to scale back at CES.

Dell Suites at CES 2011

Another theory: The Dell Suites concept has outlived its usefulness now that the company has Dell World, the customer-focused conference it inaugurated this year and plans to hold again in 2012. Why pay good money to deliver your message in the free-for-all, look-at-me shouting match that is CES when you can create your own platform from which to deliver it when people aren’t tired of listening?

Reached for comment, Dell confirmed that it is indeed dialing back its presence at CES and that it will be introducing a new product during a partner keynote, though it declined to specify which one.

“Over the last few months, we’ve been evaluating the most effective platforms that allow us to reach and engage our core consumers directly,” the company said in a statement provided to AllThingsD. “We will continue to have a presence at CES 2012, meeting with key retail customers, partners, investors, press and analysts, among others. In addition, we will be joining a key partner in their keynote presentation and we will be introducing a new product at the show. As we look ahead to calendar year 2012, we will be focused on engaging our various stakeholders through uniquely Dell experiences, such as the recently concluded Dell World and other Dell-specific events.”

Reached for comment, the Consumer Electronics Association, which produces CES, said Dell has not yet told them of its intentions for CES 2012.

(Image Credit: Dell Flickr page)

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