HP Wins 3PAR, What's Next for Dell?

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Dell has thrown in the towel and conceded the 3PAR bidding war to HP. With that epic struggle behind it, Dell has to determine its next steps--sans 3PAR and now competing against the cloud storage service it had hoped to be offering.

Dell walked away and let HP claim cloud storage provider 3PAR.
The price tag for 3PAR went from Dell's initial offer of $1.15 billion to HP's winning bid of $2.4 billion in just a couple short weeks. Dave Donatelli, executive vice president and general manager of HP's Enterprise Servers, Storage, and Networking unit declared in a statement "HP and 3PAR is a winning combination that will accelerate HP's Converged Infrastructure strategy and bolster our ability to provide customers with the industry's highest levels of performance, efficiency and reliability."

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Dell has been mimicking HP strategy and acquisitions, but the "me-too" system of acquiring the scraps left behind by HP has predictably resulted in Dell being relegated to taking the back seat to HP in the markets they compete in.

In the case of 3PAR, Dell took a proactive step to move into a market ahead of HP and gain a strategic advantage for a change. Unfortunately for Dell, these acquisitions have a way of making headlines and tipping off competitors like HP--allowing them an opportunity to take that strategic advantage away.

So Dell isn't number one. Does that really matter? There is enough hardware sales, and software services business in the world for both HP and Dell to co-exist--along with IBM and others--and each still make money. Ultimately, it is more important that Dell be profitable than be number one.

Dell's efforts in the smartphone and tablet markets are sad. The Dell Streak is too small to be a real tablet, and too big to be a functional smartphone. The Dell Aero could be a capable Android smartphone--if this were still 2009. Dell's attempts with Android so far are an embarrassment to both Dell and the Android operating system, so hopefully Dell isn't hanging its future on that strategy.

The dirty little secret of the whole 3PAR struggle, though, is that 3PAR is not the only virtual cloud storage company out there. Just as Intel could have bought a variety of antivirus companies for far less than the nearly $8 billion it is investing in McAfee, Dell has a number of options to pursue that will cost far less than the $2.4 billion paid for 3PAR--or even Dell's initial $1.15 billion offer.

Maybe HP did Dell a favor, or maybe Dell used HP's pride against it to drive the price up and get HP to spend more than 3PAR is worth just to "win". Dell can now turn around and snatch a company like Egnyte, or Pillar Data, or some other cloud storage company and accomplish the same goal for a fraction of the cost.

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