Can Dell Buy Its Way Out of Irrelevance?
It is broadly known that mobile devices from the likes of Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) and Amazon (AMZN) have all but sealed its fate, sending Dell spiraling toward irrelevance. Making matters worse is the fact that its once-proud partner, software giant Microsoft (MSFT), has now essentially proclaimed it's every man for himself by deciding to enter the realm of hardware with its own Surface tablet -- effectively becoming a competitor. So what is left for Dell?
This is a question the company's management has been trying to answer for quite some time. The response of late appears to have been, "let's buy our way out of this mess." The company has gone on a shopping spree, spending $2.4 billion dollars to scoop up Quest Software (QSFT). This comes on the heels of its recent acquisition of SonicWall for an estimated $1.2 billion. Let's not forget that is also acquired Wyse Technology earlier this year, KACE Networks in 2010 and Perot Systems in 2009.
It seems the company is thinking it needs to build its software portfolio by buying up niche companies to offset its fledging hardware/PC businesses which are now rapidly deteriorating. Is the strategy working? I don't think so. Nor do I think the company has put enough thought into its acquisitions.Dell's recent acquisitions were broadly intended to improve its footprint in enterprise. However, if PCs are indeed dying as evidence suggests, then what sense does it make to acquire companies and systems that support PCs? The company's challenge is finding new ways to grow its high-margin segments, which include networking and storage. It also has to figure out ways to better leverage these recent acquisitions to synergize with its existing businesses and address a new mobile strategy. This is the only way it can effectively fight back. The company should embrace the idea that mobile devices aren't going anywhere and realize that Apple and Google are not going to rest until they reach their level of dominance. With that in mind and considering where and how it has been spending its cash, it can immediately become relevant by buying an existing mobile specialty company -- one with an existing enterprise brand similar to its own. To that end, the only acquisition that makes this type of sense is Research in Motion (RIMM).
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