Barring a change of heart or a wild, consumer-driven financial upturn, it looks as if Dell is out of the consumer PC business and is turning its Sauron-like eye towards the enterprise – the one place where people upgrade their PCs at least once a year. According to PCPro, Dell will is “dramatically changing” their entire business with a focus away from “shiny boxes” and more focus on barebones server and fleet hardware.
To be fair, the statement could portend far less than we should expect. Dell has been among the walking dead in PC hardware for most of this decade, producing little of interest (the Adamo was their big consumer play and presumably Alienware will remain a consumer-facing company) but there's still money to be made in selling commodity hardware for a few percentage points over cost. I doubt the outcry will be as vociferous as it was when HP threatened to pull its consumer business, mostly because Dell has no products of any interest to the enthusiast. The anger at HP was more about their destruction of Palm rather than the possibility that we wouldn't be able to by a handsome, staid PC in a black/grey case.
As MG points out, the only company to truly pull off this move was IBM. They sold their consumer hardware wholesale to a partner who could do their brand justice and they are thriving under the radar, producing interesting research and machines like Watson, the Jeopardy playing super-computer. I doubt Dell could build a super computer, but they can put together a mean RAID array.
We haven't heard back from Dell yet about what this decision means to the company, but rather than assume all Dell consumer hardware is going away I suspect we'll see more focus on enterprise desktops and laptops and less of an emphasis on the low-margin, low-cost netbook, entry-level PC, and tablet/convertible lines. This also means a move away from brick and mortar sales, a place where no one is making money. Maybe this really is the post-PC era?