Next week's Dell Enterprise Forum event will be known as much for what will not be seen as it will be for the product and channel information made available to solution providers and their customers.
While Dell's channel partners will be looking forward to news, road maps and training on the latest Dell products, solutions and channel initiatives, they will likely receive no answer to the biggest question on the minds of everyone working with Dell: What happens if the company goes private?
This year's event brings Dell's solution providers and customers together at a time when Dell is struggling to go private in a $24-billion-plus leveraged buyout.
That privatization bid is being led by Dell CEO Michael Dell, who last year famously declared his company an "end-to-end solutions" company.
However, shifting its focus from the PC industry to enterprise solutions has proven difficult for Dell which, as a public company, must pass the scrutiny of investors who question its strategy.
One big break from the past at this year's Dell Enterprise Forum is the fact that Michael Dell is not expected to appear.
Michael Dell keynoted last year's Dell Storage Forum where he stood on stage and proclaimed of his company, "We love the channel."
The Dell spokesperson said that Michael Dell's calendar fills up months in advance, and that he is scheduled to be out of the country during the Dell Enterprise Forum.
Paul Clifford, president of Davenport Group, a St. Paul-based solution provider and Dell partner, said he will miss hearing Michael Dell on stage but is not surprised he will not be at the event.
"I don't think his not being there reflects on the importance of Dell Enterprise Forum," Clifford said. "And it shows he has talented people there running the event."
At any rate, Clifford said, he'd rather Michael Dell stay focused on seeing Dell's privatization bid through to the end.
"I'd rather he focus on the buyout," Clifford said. "I truly believe it's important for Dell to go private with Michael on top and making the changes the company needs to make without Wall Street scrutiny. It is easier to make the needed changes without worrying every quarter what Wall Street thinks about Dell's PC market."
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