Dell To Replace BlackBerries With Own Venue Pro Smartphone

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With a sweeping announcement, Dell has put Research In Motion (RIM) and other potential smartphone and mobile market competitors on notice: Dell's here.

That was the real message in Dell's decision to swap out some 25,000 BlackBerry smartphones deployed across its workforce in favor of Dell's own forthcoming Venue Pro, a Windows Phone 7 device.

The Wall Street Journal reported the move, and that Dell employees will be offered the upcoming Dell Venue Pro phone to replace their BlackBerrys. The switch-out begins next week, and Dell hopes to save some 25 percent in communication costs, mainly by shifting off of BlackBerry servers.

"Clearly in this decision, we are competing with RIM, because we're kicking them out," said Brian Gladden, Dell's CFO, in an interview with the Journal Friday.

Dell's mobile device strategy has gradually taken shape in the last few months, and what's emerged so far are a few showpiece devices, including the Dell Streak and the Venue Pro, which was among the phones touted during Microsoft's splashy Windows Phone 7 launch in October.

Dell partners are skeptical -- many see Dell's mobile salvo as too little, too late -- but also told CRN last month that they're encouraged by Dell's new commitment to mobile innovation.

The Journal reported that Dell will also offer phones to employees that run Google's Android. Dell is already committed to Android in some respects -- the Streak is an Android device, for example -- and further Android use would put Dell up there with Motorola, Samsung, HTC and other smartphone vendors that have hitched their wagons to Android's rising star, with a small galaxy of buzzed-about devices between them.

When asked by the Journal about whether RIM had been informed of Dell's switch, Gladden said RIM hadn't been told and that "it's not clear to them the scope of what we're doing."

Dell's mobile device strategy comes during a time of an increased emphasis on enterprise networking, too. The company has OEM agreements with Brocade, Juniper, and more recently, Aruba, marketing those vendors' products under its PowerConnect B-series, J-series and W-series brands.

Dell in late September also hired industry veteran Dario Zamarian as its vice president and general manager for networking -- the first time Dell has named a dedicated vice president to that division.

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