Dell says it's going to take more risks by experimenting more than it did in the past:
"The old Dell was about how everything had to improve with scale. In other words, any fixed cost investment had to get more profitable with volume," said Roger Kay, analyst and president of Endpoint Technologies. But after the leadership change a year ago, "Michael (Dell) said there were no sacred cows when he took back over."
Now Dell can't seem to stay out of niche markets. Besides the Latitude XT, in the last year Dell has launched a ruggedized laptop, a consumer-friendly all-in-one desktop, and began offering Linux pre-installed on some PCs. Plus, there's constant chatter about the company re-entering the handheld market.
The PC industry is moving toward increased mobility, so tablets and rugged notebooks are part of a larger trend. But they also represent opportunities that Dell can't afford to miss anymore.
In Dell's heyday, its mammoth commercial computing clients would choose a variety of machines they wanted Dell to supply; if one of them was too much of a niche product, Dell would simply partner with a manufacturer that did make it.
"But now they're saying, we don't want to keep giving away those opportunities because that's decent margin (being left) on the table," said Richard Shim, PC analyst for IDC. Now, "they go out and create their own versions of these products."
Within the overall trend toward mobility, commercial clients, and even consumers, are demanding more and more specific usage models, and Dell, it seems, is trying to adapt.
"The market is evolving beyond generic solutions. There are new opportunities in more specialized products," said Shim.