When is “long life” long enough? Part 1

What does the term "long life" mean? While attending the ESC show in Silicon Valley last week, I met and spoke to hundreds of engineers, product managers, and managers involved in the development and production of computing platforms used in their solutions. One theme running through many of those conversations was the need for something they called "long life platforms".

For many years I made the assumption that when someone needed a long life product for their market, what they were asking for was a server or workstation which could be purchased, exactly as it is, for at least 5 years without any changes. In some instances I was told the platform had to be available for over 10 years, and in other cases it only had to be available for 3 years. But in every case, the general impression I got was that the device had to be available for my customer to buy when they needed it for at least 3 to 10 years.

When speaking to the engineers and managers in the San Jose Convention Center, I got some different stories. One guy told me that he needed a long-life desktop that would last at least 5 years, and I caught on to his emphasis on "lasting". What did he mean by that? When I asked, he told me that if he was going to install a PC platform into the solution he was designing, it needed to operate with a full hardware warranty for 5 years – he needed to assure his customers wouldn't be caught without a solution. Well, that was a new twist on the term "long-life". What he needed was PC that could operate for 5 years in his solution and be serviceable under warranty should there be an issue. Dell can offer that, and we have offered that for as long as I have been working in the OEM group. This engineer did not know that, as his entire exposure to Dell's offerings was from our consumer business, which has its own unique requirements for support.

At that point I started paying closer attention to the people I met who were throwing around the term "long life". One product manager told me he needed the PC systems embedded into his solutions to be available exactly as qualified for no less than 24 months (two years) with break-fix warranty support for 36 months (three years) after that. That was his definition of a "long-life" PC. Again, this is something Dell can offer, so I was surprised to learn this particular engineer believed he could only get from building his own platforms.

So, what exactly does "long life computers" mean to you? I will continue this discussion for the foreseeable future and I get a better idea of what people are looking for.  

About the Author: Franklin Flint