Is A Dell Smartphone Imminent? For Real This Time?

speculation mounted smartphone Dell would unveil its strategy for the handheld market

That didn't happen, but it did nothing to quell the rumors, or stop CEO Michael Dell from not-so-subtly hinting that Dell is prepping a smartphone of its own by shrinking down its netbook capabilities into a smaller form-factor.

It appears Mr. Dell himself wants to keep the rumor mill swirling. During a speech in Tokyo on Tuesday, Dell essentially said a Dell smartphone was imminent.

"It is true that we are exploring smaller-screen devices," he said, according to gadget blog Gearlog. "We don't have any announcements to share today, but stay tuned as when we have new news we will share that with you."

Never one to beat around the bush, Dell clarified his initial hint, adding that a smaller-screen device would likely be 3G enabled, which would pit Dell into heated competition with mobile heavyweights like the Apple iPhone 3G, several BlackBerry models and a host of other devices using high-speed 3G connectivity.

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"For the last three years, we have integrated 3G radios into our notebooks," Dell told the crowd. "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's roundabout confirmation that it is building a smartphone comes after the The Wall Street Journal said in January that Dell has been working on smartphone prototypes for more than a year, including a device with a touch-screen keyboard, similar to the iPhone's, and another with a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard that would combat the Google Android-based T-Mobile G1 and the upcoming Palm Pre.

Michael Dell's hints also come after Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu panned Dell's smartphone attempt, implying that Dell is essentially taking a cookie-cutter approach with its smartphone dreams and not bringing anything to market that hasn't been done before. Because of that, Wu wrote, carriers showed no interested in a Dell smartphone, sending the computer giant back to the drawing board.

"From our conversations with supply chain and industry sources, it appears that it ultimately came down to lack of carrier interest," Wu wrote, according to Market Watch. The lack of interest in the mobile device reportedly has Dell going back to the drawing board to revamp design and functionality.

Wu said Kaufman Bros. heard Dell built both Windows Mobile and Google Android prototypes, but they differed little from available devices from mobility masters like HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Motorola and more. The Palm Pre is also raining on Dell's parade.

"In our view, the last thing Dell needs is to enter another money-losing business," Wu wrote.