Michael Dell On Microsoft: Despite Surface Book, 'We're Absolutely Friends'

Michael Dell and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella drew a bold line under their commitment to open systems, saying serving customers well is each company's focus, even if that means the two technology giants increasingly go head-to-head in hardware.

In a Q&A session with Bloomberg's Emily Chang at the annual Dell World conference in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday, Dell and Nadella traded good-natured barbs about competing with each other, especially now that Windows has introduced its Surface Book convertible laptop.

"Satya's got some really nice products," Dell said in response to a question about the launch of Microsoft's Surface Book laptop. "The volume isn't very high. The price is pretty high," Dell said to laughs from the Dell World audience.

[Related: Forget EMC-VMware Cloud Services, Dell Teams With Microsoft On Azure-In-A-Box]

Sponsored post

"We're absolutely friends," Dell said. "We have been one of the big advocates of open ecosystems. It's important to understand that customers want choices. They don't want one thing. We have worked for years with Microsoft on Windows, on Office. We also help customers with a variety of other systems and platforms."

Microsoft, Dell said, "is pushing Windows 10 into new spaces and driving the platform forward. It helps drive the Windows 10 ecosystem faster."

"At the core, we're friends," Nadella added. "But really, what's that friendship about? It's about serving customers. You have to live their reality. It can't be about the geopolitics of our industry. That's what guides us, and what guides our success. Our goal is clearly to make sure we have a wide ecosystem. We will keep pushing."

The message resonated with partners at the conference.

Dan Serpico, president of large Dell, EMC and VMware partner FusionStorm, told CRN that Dell and Microsoft's commitment to openness is ultimately good for partners.

"Even though Microsoft has come out with a device, it speaks to Dell's interest in being a massive provider and playing in everything they can, and that's great for partners," Serpico said. "It means a lot of opportunity for partners in all aspects of the Dell portfolio."

Chang asked Nadella if Dell's proposed $67 billion acquisition of EMC would prompt Microsoft to make a large acquisition of its own. Nadella said he doesn't base M&A decisions on what other companies do, but Microsoft is always on the lookout for good targets.

"I don't start by thinking 'Michael did a big deal last week, I should do a big deal,'" Nadella said. "We have a clear vision of what we're trying to get done, and I want to stay true to that. The biggest bet we have is organic, but we'll look at any opportunity that will help us get to where we want to in big, addressable markets where Microsoft has a unique contribution to make. That's what makes companies successful, not just doing everything."

Chang also asked Nadella whether Windows 10 would be installed on a billion devices within the next couple of years. Nadella said he was optimistic and Dell called Windows 10 "the best Windows we've ever seen."

"It's in the fabric of the way the world works," Nadella said. "We're off to a fantastic start in both consumer and enterprise. We're looking forward to next year for new deployments, new computers, and I think we're well on course to getting a billion PCs to Windows 10."

Enterprises, Dell added, are pulling in Windows 10 and planning deployments for the second half of 2016.

Chang also asked Dell and Nadella if they had any advice for each other, and while the two CEOs wouldn't share the content of their regular, private discussions, Dell said there is a "tremendous amount of respect going both ways, and we both have a long-term perspective."