Finally, and this has become very important of late, Dell has implemented a unique technology called Reliable Memory Technology (RMT). This is a BIOS-level utility that identifies memory errors and isolates them so they don't corrupt data, removing much of the need for full memory tests. Given the price pressures on the memory market, quality hasn't been reliable enough to assume.
It isn't what is in or on the product that focused my interest; it is that Dell announced the product at a customer shop at the Autodesk Gallery. What many don't know is that workstations to be selected have to be validated by the software companies that create the products that run on them. Autodesk was actively advocating this product because it was designed to meet its needs as well as the needs of other engineer-focused companies.
Also on stage were representatives from the movie industry talking about how the products were designed to meet their rendering needs. Apparently, Precision workstations were used in the creation of the recent hit movie "Hugo." In addition, there was representation from architectural rendering companies that found the products useful in creating virtual models of buildings, allowing owners to visualize their future properties and make changes digitally before a foundation is ever laid.
The point being that much of the announcement wasn't on the product, as impressive as it was; it was on the customer design focus. In other words, every new aspect of the server was tied back to a customer need. These were customers embracing a product they felt they had helped create and this kind of approach is becoming very powerful in other areas as well.
Wrapping Up: Choosing a Vendor
With workstations, the user is king and Dell's approach reflects the realities of that market. It is aggressively tying changes to user-specified needs and then articulating that source as a way to enhance its release. It strikes me that with the increased social network activity by vendors, future products in a wider variety of areas could be designed and improved more aggressively the same way. Identify buying segments and more aggressively design products to meet that segment's needs, then refocus on that segment when the product is released.
EMC is doing this with storage. Lenovo ThinkPad has historically done this with enterprise PCs. And I recently saw a presentation from a new credit card offering that was consumer-sourced. Dell is clearly showcasing this practice with workstations.
I think that, regardless of area, one of the questions that should be asked of any vendor is: What is its process for capturing user needs and converting them into new product offerings? The answer to that question should favor some vendors over others.