Dell is updating its Kace systems management products to help IT departments deal with the army of smartphones and tablets invading their company networks, Michael Dell said on Tuesday.
Dell will extend the Kace products to include support for the Apple iPhone and iPad, as well as tablets and smartphones based on Google's Android OS, Dell said, speaking at the Kace customer conference in San Francisco.
"It's critical to be able to manage all devices, whether they are client devices or mobile devices, and that's a challenge we want to address," he said. Smartphones are "basically small computers" and "somewhat insecure", Dell said, and IT departments need help managing them.
Dell acquired Kace in February as part of a wider effort to expand its business beyond PCs. It has been investing heavily in the company, Dell said, increasing its customer base by 900, to about 2,500, and tripling the size of its support staff, including the addition of new support centers in Asia and Japan.
"Systems management is a big area of investment and a big focus for us," Michael Dell said.
Kace offers two appliances today for managing PCs and servers - the K1000, for inventory and patch management, and the K2000, which can deploy applications and OS images.
They have little smartphone support, however, only some basic management capabilities for the iPhone. Future Kace products will manage phones and tablets based on Android, Windows 7 and Apple's iOS, said Lubos Parobek, vice president for product management at Dell's Kace division.
As well as performing basic inventory, customers will be able to deploy software to the devices, erase data and lock them down if they are stolen, he said. He couldn't give a release date but said the capabilities will be added to the K1000 appliance.
Dell will be competing with a number of companies. Fiberlink, Sybase and LogMeIn all offer tools for managing mobile phones as well as computers. Google offers a basic phone management service, and Good Technology sells software that lets enterprises manage phones from most manufacturers.
In some ways Dell is adding to the problem even while it tries to solve it, by selling its own little army of smartphones. It's already released the Streak and the Venture Pro, and on Tuesday Michael Dell pulled another, Android-based device from his pocket that he said will be formally announced on Wednesday. The device has a 3.5-inch screen and will be sold in India and other emerging markets, he said, without giving any more details.
Dell will have its own equivalent to the iPad too, he said - a 10-inch device based on the Honeycomb release of Android that's expected next spring.
Dell also showed briefly an upcoming "mini" Kace appliance for small organisations. Looking more like a mini-desktop PC than an appliance server, it will be for companies with less than about 150 computers to manage.
"This is something you'll hear more about next year," Dell said, showing the silver box briefly on stage. "This will have a really easy-to-use interface and will bring inventory and asset management to smaller organisations."
He also referred briefly to a new Kace technology called "super-disk," which he said will allow organisations to make use of all the disk space around their organisations that is going unused. He didn't provide any details or say when the technology will be ready.