Web Summit: Michael Dell bullish on EMC deal

Oculus VR founder sees ‘perfect virtual reality’ in his lifetime

Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR, a virtual reality company acquired by Facebook for $2 billion in 2014, speaking at the Web Summit. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR, a virtual reality company acquired by Facebook for $2 billion in 2014, speaking at the Web Summit. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 

Just weeks after Michael Dell sealed the biggest deal in tech history, his eponymous computer manufacturer acquiring data storage maker EMC for $63 billion (€55 billion), he took to the centre stage at Web Summit 2015 to discuss the thinking behind the deal.

“The combination of Dell and EMC together creates a really incredible company, a company that is absolutely a leader in today’s IT... and a leader in tomorrow’s IT. It is now the number one enterprise systems company in the world,” he told interviewer David Rowan of Wired magazine.

“I’m not afraid of risk, you have to embrace risk to grow. But if you also think about the strategic context, the two businesses are highly complementary,” he said. “The reaction from partners has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Since taking Dell private two years ago, its founder has increasingly focused on transforming the PC manufacturer into a server and enterprise-services business.

But when pressed on whether the size of the deal marks something of a high-water mark in the technology market, and whether such a huge merger can add to shareholder value, Mr Dell denied it was a risky acquisition.

“The reality is we can’t be sure,” he said, “but combine the server and the storage, which are highly complementary capabilities, and only time will tell, but as I said, we have received a great reaction from customers.”

Asked to offer some advice to the assembled start-ups and entrepreneurs, Mr Dell said: “Don’t be afraid to fail, be fearless. I would say, if you find a problem, you want to fix it as fast as you find it. You’re potential is probably far greater than you’ve experienced, if you find a way to throw yourself into challenging situations, you can probably achieve way more than you ever imagined.”

In a subsequent interview, Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR, a virtual reality company acquired by Facebook for $2 billion in 2014, gave a fascinating insight into the medium and long-term potential of virtual reality technology.

“Black and white images are the only records of history,” he said. “And now we look back and see how limited a representation of reality that feels like. Now imagine how much more incredible a VR capture of events would be compared to conventional video we’re used to now. It will be like reality captured as it actually happened.”

Asked about the acquisition by Facebook, Mr Luckey said: “Mark Zuckerberg isn’t directly serving as my boss in the way most people think about it. We had a really similar vision for the future of VR. It became clear that they wanted to do a lot of the same things we wanted to do.”

For the technology’s longer-term potential, Mr Luckey claimed that “Virtual worlds and physical worlds will coexist, they will converge. It’s going to change the way we look at what’s real and what isn’t, which currently depends on how we interact with it. If virtual reality advances enough, that line will blur a lot.”

The possibilities extend beyond gameplay, the current focus of virtual reality, to fields such as education, Mr Luckey said.

“A lot of people have talked about a post-scarcity economy,” he said, “but it’s one thing to say that everyone in the world can’t have every thing in reality, while it’s a much better bet that everybody can have everything virtually.”

“Within my lifetime, we are going to have perfect VR and that is the most interesting thing I can imagine working on,” he said.