Dell’s revenue growth hinges on enterprise hardware sales

As PC revenue continues to fall, Dell Technologies is hoping that sales of servers, storage, and networking hardware can help counter the decline in commercial and consumer spending.

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Metamorworks / Getty Images / Dell

As Dell Technologies continues to struggle with heavy decline in PC sales, green shoots are appearing in its servers, storage and networking business.

Although the company’s revenue for last year was recorded at $102.3 billion, up 1% year-on-year, fourth quarter revenue declined 11% to $25 billion. Dell’s commercial and consumer units were hit the hardest during the quarter, with revenue for those segments declining 17% and 40%, respectively.

However, revenue in the company’s infrastructure solutions group (ISG), which includes servers, storage devices and networking hardware, rose 7% in the fourth quarter. At $9.9 billion in revenue, the ISG unit drove in about 40% of overall sales for Dell during the quarter.

While underlying demand in PCs and servers remained weak, the company is seeing robust growth in its ISG unit, said Chuck Whitten, Dell's co-CEO, on a call with analysts after the results had been published.

“Specifically in ISG, we delivered record storage revenue of $5 billion, up 10% including demand growth in PowerFlex, VxRail, Data Protection and PowerStore,” Whitten said. “We grew servers and networking 5% in a challenging server demand environment by optimizing server shipments, along with strong attach and growing ASPs, a clear indication that we continue to sell deeper into customers’ digital agendas.”

PC sales continue to decline

According to reports from Gartner, IDC and Canalys, during the last quarter of 2022, PC sales dropped by more than 25% year-over-year, as did the prices for the hardware that did sell.

For all of 2022, laptop and desktop sales were down about 16% compared to 2021, according to all the three reports. Last year’s decline was somewhat cushioned by a nearly historic year in PC sales in 2021, where year-over-year growth was about 15%.

Dell is not the only PC manufacturer to have been hit financially by the drop in device sales. Earlier this week, HP reported a 19% revenue decline for its latest quarter, with commercial revenue down 18% and consumer PC revenue down by 36%. Revenue for the company’s personal systems unit down 24%.

Speaking after Gartner published its IT spending forecast in January 2023, John-David Lovelock, a vice president and analyst at Gartner, said that due to the current inflationary economic situation, device sales are likely to remain flat for sometime.

He explained that while Gartner had expected to see a decline in device spending due to the impact of inflation on consumer spending power, the refresh cycle has been even longer than anticipated, meaning companies like Dell and HP are unlikely to see their consumer and commercial business units rebound any time soon.

“People are learning that they can hold on to a device longer and still be content,” Lovelock said, noting that this trend is likely to carry throughout 2023 and into 2024, when Gartner expects to see some of the backlog in purchases pick up.

Whitten acknowledged these obstacles were likely to persist into the next financial year. “Given that backdrop, we expect at least the early part of financial year 2024 to remain challenging,” he said.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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