Dell Still Noncommittal on 64-bit, Has Mixed Results on Linux

NEW YORK -- During his keynote kicking off the TECHXNY show, Dell’s president and COO Kevin Rollins was coy on plans to support new initiatives in the enterprise and consumer spaces, preferring instead to emphasize the computermaker’s changing role in a maturing industry.

While Dell has announced support for Itanium-based 64-bit computing, Rollins said Tuesday that it’s "premature" for Dell to begin supporting 64-bit computing in a big way. Instead, he said Dell would go where the mass market goes. Dell will mass-market 64-bit systems "when customers want it; and when their hardware and software are ready to use it," he said. "It’s going to happen, but it’s going to be a little slow." He added, however, that in a few years, 64-bit systems might be the norm. "We have no doubt that 64-bit is the wave the future."

Likewise, when it comes to open-source computing, Dell will support whatever the market demands. While Dell ships Red Hat Linux-based servers as well as Windows, Rollins said he still has not seen an appreciable demand for Linux on the desktop side. "We offered Linux as a standard feature in a desktop, but nobody was buying it," he said.

Rollins observed that the PC and IT industries have matured to some degree, but are still experiencing growing pains. The greatest trend on Dell’s horizon is increasing standardization, he said. "The old model of technological innovation was an insider’s game. Today, it’s a standards-based model."

This is driving down costs to commodity levels, which is having a positive effect on information technology, he added. "Embracing standards is not a ‘me-too’ approach. It means spending less money in an attempt to hit the moving target of information technology." Rollins said that Dell currently spends about half a billion dollars a year on R&D, and about half of that goes to enterprise products, such as servers and storage devices.

TechXNY – a conglomeration of the PCExpo, Outsource World, and Network for Business shows – did not draw the crowds of the boom times of the 1990s, but may have picked up since the IT trough of 2001-2002. Show managers report that about 15,000 attendees had pre-registered, a figure "far ahead of last year." Major vendors exhibiting included IBM, HP, Hitachi Global Storage, Quantum, and Novell. Overseas IT service firms from countries including Bulgaria, Egypt, India, the Philippines, Romania, and Russia occupied much of the show floor.

Along with outsourcing, a major theme prevalent among vendors and presenters was the management of wireless technologies. Security issues around wireless LAN deployments issues were explored at a panel discussion that included Ron Sperano, IBM’s director of mobile market development, joined Intel’s Steve Skibinski, manager of strategic technologies. The major security threat to wireless LANs is "rogue access points," they pointed out. These typically aren’t created by hackers, but usually by employees bringing in technology from home to get around IT departments.

In fact, as with many new technologies over the years, the wireless LAN revolution began in homes. "As an industry, we didn’t expect growth in the consumer market," said Skibinski. "If you don’t have a strategy for wireless LANs, your employees do."

Skibinski and Sperano said there are tools on the market that can sweep and sniff out rogue access points. In addition, Sperano said that IBM now ships 802.1x, a security protocol that supports multiple authentication approaches such as passwords and digital certificates, with its wireless-enabled laptops.

About the Author

Joe McKendrick is an independent consultant and author specializing in surveys, technology research and white papers. He's a contributing writer for

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