Reuters, citing unnamed analysts, said Tuesday that Dell has not confirmed the plans but that it is working on handsets with Chi Mei Communications, an unlisted unit of Taiwan electronics giant Hon Hai. In addition, China-based software maker Red Office is supposedly designing the phones' operating system.
According to the Reuters report, a Red Office spokeswoman confirmed the company was building an operating system for a Dell smartphone.
"We're still in preliminary development of the software and haven't done any publicity on this yet," the Red Office spokeswoman told Reuters.
Analysts have also confirmed with Chi Mei officials that Dell is a client, Reuters wrote.
Dell's Asian smartphone partnerships come as rumors continue to swirl that Dell is trying to sync up with China Mobile to offer two smartphones. Those devices, which are said to be in the testing phase, are expected to be based on China Mobile's Open Mobile System (OMS) operating system. OMS is based on Google Android but includes China Mobile's own applications.
While additional Dell device details weren't available Tuesday, it is believed that Dell will roll out its smartphones first in China, then in the U.S. and Europe.
Speculation about a Dell smartphone kicked into high gear earlier this year, on the back of rumors that the computer maker was readying devices for launch at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, in February.
While the Mobile World Congress saw no announcements from Dell, the company's CEO did little to quell the speculation that Dell is looking for a piece of the lucrative smartphone pie.
"It is true that we are exploring smaller-screen devices," Michael Dell not-so-subtly hinted last month during a speech in Tokyo. "We don't have any announcements to share today, but stay tuned as when we have new news we will share that with you."
At the time, Dell went so far as to add that the smaller-screen devices would likely be 3G-enabled, which would put the company in head-to-head competition with mobile heavyweights like the Apple iPhone 3G, several BlackBerry models and a host of other devices.
"For the last three years, we have integrated 3G radios into our notebooks," Dell said. "We already have agreements with many mobile carriers around netbook devices, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that we would have smaller mobile Internet devices in the near future."
Dell has been said to be working on smartphone prototypes for more than a year, including a device with a touch-screen keyboard, similar to the iPhone, and another with a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard in the vein of the Google Android-based T-Mobile G1.
Analysts and the media have panned Dell's smartphone plans, with Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu noting that Dell is taking a cookie-cutter approach and not bringing anything to the market that hasn't been done before. Wu added that carriers in the U.S. have shown little interest in Dell's prototypes, sending the company back to the drawing board.
"In our view, the last thing Dell needs is to enter another money-losing business," Wu wrote.
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