Is A Dell Smartphone In The Works? Again?

Brian Kraemer
smartphone The Wall Street Journal

The report states that Dell has been working on prototypes for more than a year. According to the Journal, two prototypes have been produced, one built on Google's Android operating system and the other on Microsoft's Window's Mobile OS, and the smartphone could be released as soon as next month.

The Mobile World Congress takes place in Barcelona, Spain, from Feb. 16-19.

The two prototypes Dell has developed feature two different user interfaces—one with a touch-screen keyboard similar to Apple's iPhone; the other mock-up had a full QWERTY sliding keyboard, in the same vein as Palm's recently released Pre, according to the report.

The sources for the Journal's article were only identified as "people familiar with the matter," and the report noted that plans were not finalized and could be dropped at any moment.

An inquiry to Dell was met with the standard response, with a spokesman telling Channelweb, "We have made no announcements or comments."

But Dell must be watching its competitors closely. Just recently Acer indicated that it will be launching a smartphone at the Mobile World Congress next month. Lenovo just acquired consumer-oriented Switchbox Labs this week and is planning a strong push into the consumer market.

But it would kind of make sense for Dell to enter the smartphone market, even if it does so at such a late stage. From a revenue perspective, smartphones are relatively inexpensive to manufacture and tend to yield high margins. And it's no secret that Dell has been badly hurt in this economy, with PC sales dropping. Dell has already revealed a plan to save $3 billion in operating expenses and is closing its Limerick, Ireland-based manufacturing plant to move to Poland.

But the revenue carrot is dangling from the smartphone stick, and it isn't likely that Dell will ever catch up with its prize. Research In Motion's BlackBerry is a giant in the enterprise smartphone field and Apple's iPhone seems to win over more converts in the consumer space every day. Palm hyped its recently released Pre as much as possible, hoping to take a bite out of Apple and RIM's market share, but the device hasn't hit the streets yet.

Still, the smartphone industry more and more seems to becoming a "monkey see, monkey do" market. Sales, revenue growth and partnership opportunities all come with the territory in which RIM and Apple have staked a claim and Dell wants a piece—never mind the fact that Dell has released a smartphone in the past, the Axiom, without much success.

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