NetApp’s Cloud-Based PC Spot: Right Solution, Right Direction, Bad Company

(Disclosure: Most of the vendors mentioned are clients of the author.)

There is no doubt that the current trend in personal computing is to move loads and costs from the desktop to the cloud, where there are better economies of scale for things like updates, security and performance on demand. . Barriers to this evolution are past bad experiences with thin clients; excessive costs associated with certain vendor solutions; and network access, capacity and latency – all of which are facilitated by 5G.

Microsoft’s Windows 365 brought desktop cloud computing into the mainstream, and NetApp just wrapped Windows 365 with a cloud PC offering called Point PC. This is very good on paper, but will be hampered by the fact that NetApp is not the right company to provide a desktop solution. Just as IBM and Cisco failed in their efforts to sell Apple, NetApp is likely to fail on this one.


Let’s talk about why.

Example of an international harvester

I grew up on a farm and ranch. At the ranch we had a Jeep and an International Harvester Scout to get around. In many ways, the Scout is the best farm vehicle because it has a bed like a pickup truck and a built -in hardtop cab that you can heat up in the winter. But Scout failed in the market, while the Jeep brand and vehicles, which were not much different from what I had then, continue to do so today.

The problem with Scout is that International Harvester’s sales and service capabilities are designed for targeted agricultural vehicles such as harvesters and tractors. The Scout is a personal transportation vehicle traditionally sold through car or truck dealerships that cater to a wider variety of consumers. Farm equipment is usually serviced where it is used, and if you need to take it to a store, the equipment will be picked up, taken to a repair center, and then returned by truck, a process that is not. how do you maintain a personal transportation vehicle. If you repair your Scout, there is no waiting room or consideration for an owner who can wait for the repair, as those items are not necessary for the industrial equipment that is mostly serviced there.

When Honda released its first car, it collided with something similar. Although motorcycle shops are more like car dealerships than International Harvester, in order for the company to be successful it still needs to create a sales, service, and distribution system that is unique to cars before it can be successful. .

Examples of technology

Sony versus Dell is an early example of this technology problem. Sony has made more powerful PCs than Dell, but it wants to use its current audio channels and support structure. Although sales were similar (at least at the consumer level), support was not. For PC support, you need a more robust service organization, which Dell has but Sony lacks. Sony PCs can be broken more often, but when they did the experience was even worse that Sony had a bad support rep, and people avoided the product even though it was arguably nicer and better. developed.

Apple, which has always struggled with enterprise sales because it lacks an enterprise sales channel and support, thought it could use Cisco and IBM to develop its products. But none of these companies sell PCs. Two problems have caused the failure of these efforts. First, the companies lacked a sales and support channel that matched the product class, and second, Apple refused to create a product that would be more acceptable to the channels these companies already have.

If you look at how IBM was able, at least initially, to solve this problem when there was an IBM PC, it built a company within a company with its own sales and assistance channels. It worked but was still different with other IBM businesses (which were more similar to NetApp) so it had to sell the IBM PC company to Lenovo, which had more success here.

Citrix has been around for decades, offering something similar to the Spot PC, but it lacks the size of the economy that traditional PC makers have. This forced him to charge more for the offer than most in the market would like to pay, and he didn’t have enough control over the infrastructure to make his solution effective as well.

NetApp: The bad supplier for this product came at the right time

By offering the cloud, you will assume that support issues will disappear. But how often does NetApp address end-user issues that a PC vendor typically addresses and IT wants them to address? Also, for user support, the process involving OEM is well established in most companies. So a vendor like Dell, which is already on board with this process, can provide a Spot PC solution that is relatively easy to use, since their services are already tied to the IT departments and the sales team is communicates and works with technology support. IT staff. banda.

A solution from NetApp will not only get there, but it won’t easily fit into a process built around another vendor with decades of experience supporting end users. And, on the other end, NetApp is also not a major cloud player, which means it needs to build that capability or partner with AWS, Azure, or Google to deliver it.

This increases risk to the buyer both in the short and long term, as NetApp does not have the support structure that IT initially expected for rapid support, and in the long run there is a high risk of this effort failing, which leaving its clients struggling.

And finally, what will NetApp use in the long run for desktop hardware? In the short term, it can use older PCs, but in the long term, it will need a more dedicated hardware platform – and NetApp is no longer in the PC business.


The last painful example is Steve Ballmer’s hard work on Zune. On paper, the Zune is cheaper than the iPod. It’s more stable: it plays videos and it includes music service even before Apple Music. But Microsoft looked at the market requirements for the offer, which included massive marketing spending, a video service (not available at the time), and a way to transfer iPod playlists to the Zune, and decided to skip the difficult parts. So, Zune failed.

On paper, NetApp has a product that looks comprehensive and up to date. But NetApp is not an end-user-focused desktop computing company right now, for either hardware or software. Thus, it lacks the critical aspects to create the complete solution that the market will need. While other enterprise PC OEMs are launching their own competing offers also based on Windows 365 and primarily on Azure, NetApp will increasingly be overtaken by these offers that are better positioned and supported.

So while the Spot PC is in spec, apparently the right product at the right time, the fact that it came from the wrong company is not a good indication for its future.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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