Dell Kills Its Public Cloud, Continues To Flail In Post-PC Era

Dell is a computer company desperately in search of a new market as the desktop and laptop PCs dwindles. But the Austin-based company is finding that that an elusive target.

Public Cloud? That's So 2011

Yesterday the company announced it was dropping Dell Cloud, its home-grown infrastructure-as-a-service public cloud service. It is also pulling the plug on its planned OpenStack-based public cloud service and online storage service before they even get off the ground.

Dell isn't out the cloud game altogether, mind you - it will be reselling public cloud services through its new Dell Cloud Partner Program. And it's still working on private cloud offerings.

Dell's decision to drop its program after only two years isn't terribly surprising - it was regarded as pricey compared to similar offerings from HP and IBM, and going head to head with similar services from Amazon Web Services and Google without good pricing and a very solid support system is tantamount to suicide these days.

Bring On The Dongles

But Dell is still on the hunt for new revenue. Reports out today indicate that the hardware maker will be releasing a new thumb-drive PC, codenamed Project Ophelia, this July for a reported $100.

PC World has revealed that the device will be based on Android and can be plugged into a TV or monitor via the HDMI port. File storage will be handled via Wyse's PocketCloud.

Dell wants to get this device in the hands of telecomm carriers, who could use Ophelia to deliver streaming TV to customers who don't currently have smart TVs or devices like Roku or Apple TV to pull in online content.

Developers will get their hands on the PC-on-a-stick first, in order to build Android apps and build up a collection of TV-friendly apps. Since there's a lot of Wyse thin-client tech packed into this thing, presumably there will be some capability to have portability between home and work.

This is an interesting concept, save for the fact that there are already similar and cheaper devices on the market now. The concept of a dongle PC is not new, and to date, they haven't really taken off.

The idea also ignores the very real trend away from vertical screen and keyboard/mouse devices to handheld tablets and smartphones. While Ophelia devices would give you portability, you still need a mouse, keyboard and screen to use these things… so the portability is constrained. And if I'm essentially recreating a PC-like portable work setup anyway, why not just use a laptop?

I suspect that's why Dell is emphasizing the telecom angle when it pitches these things. Carriers could offer Ophelia with video and data plans, maybe. But it's hard to imagine consumers buying these things off the shelf when there are other similarly priced set-top devices already on the market and proven to work.

Dell is clearly throwing a lot of things against the wall to see what sticks. Public cloud didn't work, and it's difficult to see Project Ophelia working out, either. Servers, however, aren't doing badly right now. Perhaps Dell should stick to what it knows best.