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PC-as-a-ServiceMost managed service providers are aware that PC manufacturers, including Dell, HP Inc, and Lenovo, are trying to shift customers away from buying PCs to procuring them as a service. These PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS) programs enable IT organizations to treat PCs as an operational expense that they pay for monthly based on the number of individual users. Now, PC manufacturers are extending those contracts to include several managed services.

For example, Dell announced today that, via an alliance with sister company VMware, organizations that sign up for its PCaaS program will be able to have end users self-service the provisioning of PCs using VMware AirWatch endpoint management software in much the same way end users provision their smartphones.

At the same time, Dell is integrating Dell Client Command Suite with VMware AirWatch. This means that in addition to being able to manage everything above the operating system level, VMware AirWatch can now also be used to manage the underlying PC hardware.

Dell is making these capabilities available via a PCaaS program that it sells direct and via channel partners. In effect, every reseller that signs up for the Dell PCaaS program will become an MSP. The managed services, of course, will be delivered by Dell. But as far as the end customer is concerned, it will be hard to distinguish between an MSP that built their own endpoint management services and a reseller of the Dell managed service.

Naturally, HP and Lenovo are moving down a similar path. HP has a device-as-a-service (DaaS) offering that uses VMware software and capabilities it developed for managing printers to provide a suite of managed services. Lenovo announced a similar initiative earlier this year.

A new path to market

The end goal is to eliminate the need for an internal IT organization or a reseller to provision a PC. Instead, end users will select what applications they want installed from a menu of options. Those applications will then be installed over a wireless network similar to the way mobile applications are installed on a smartphone or a tablet. PC manufacturers are also moving to bundle security applications and other utilities as part of the PCaaS contracts.

Some savvy MSPs have been making similar capabilities available across multiple PC vendors for months now. PC manufacturers are clearly hoping that by developing their own PCaaS offerings they will be able to command a larger share of a customer’s wallet. The number of customers opting to sign up for a PCaaS contract remains relatively small. But, every PC manufacturer is forecasting double-digit growth, especially now that cloud applications are paid for using a similar model.

Most MSPs still make the bulk of their revenue from managing endpoints, so the fact that Dell, HP, and Lenovo are altering the way they go to market will likely have a significant impact. MSPs need to get in front of this trend by reminding customers that their services span multiple vendors, which means the organization won’t find itself locked into a specific vendor. That becomes a compelling point when certain classes of PCs or devices are in short supply or there is a problem with a specific component.

The good news, of course, is that PC manufacturers are pouring more marketing and sales resources in PCaaS offerings. When all is said and done, that should go a long way toward increasing the size of the MSP pie for everyone.

Photo: everything possible/

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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