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

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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]

"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."

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