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Dell Partners Question Strategy Behind Venue Pro Smartphone Launch

Solution providers who have worked with Dell say the recent release of its Venue Pro is an example of the company's "me-too" mentality and difficulties with marketing.

Dell's partners are largely indifferent to the launch of the Dell Venue Pro smartphone last week, although they question the company's mobile strategy and its choice of the Windows Phone 7 platform.

Dell last week began selling the Venue Pro on its website and Windows online and retail stores, and it is now available with a two-year contract exclusively from T-Mobile. Powered by a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, the Venue Pro comes with a 4.1-inch Gorilla Glass AMOLED touchscreen display, 1GB ROM, and 512MB DDR SDRAM. It also includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, GPS and a 1400 mAh battery.

While the Venue Pro is the first Microsoft Windows Phone 7 device, and features a full physical portrait QWERTY keyboard and slider, Dell's partners in the channel reacted to the launch with broader concerns over Dell's strategy, rather than strong opinions about the device itself.

"It looks like a nice device,but I don't think its epically groundbreaking," said Michael Rathburn, senior technical specialist at Applied Systems Associates, Inc, a Murrysville, Pennsylvania-based solution provider.

Rathburn says he prefers the Android OS to the Windows Phone 7 platform, even though the specifications for the Venue Pro look impressive. "Its specs are similar to the Droid X's, except it happens to run Windows Phone 7," Rathburn said. "if there's a market out there for Windows Phone 7 then I'm sure this phone will do well, but I don’t know that there is one. "

Rick Russell, vice president of sales and marketing at Seattle, Wa.-based solution provider Digital Forest thinks the questions that remain about the Windows Phone 7 operating system could be a problem for Dell.

"It's probably a risk for Dell to go with the Windows Phone 7 platform, or at least they would perceive it as a risk," Russell said. "Dell doesn't seem to be big risk-takers as far as new technologies are concerned. They will be trying to get some joint momentum with Microsoft," Russell said, referring to the wave of recently released Windows Phone 7 devices.

Russell said Dell is in a position to take a risk because of some of the issues it has encountered with the marketing of its mobile products. Dell last month discontinued its mobile business unit and absorbed it into other divisions within the company.

NEXT: Issues With Dell's Mobile Strategy

"They seem to be more driven by whatever wave is buffeting them around. I would not count on them to come out with something new or interesting," Russell said."If there's something new to Dell out there, it’s a very difficult for them to make a splash because their marketing is kind of spotty."

In addition to struggling with its marketing, Russell mentioned Dell's lack of a clear channel strategy, which some system builders raised in the context of Dell's new advertising campaign launched in October.

Dell is facing growing competition from mobile device manufacturers, and tablets and smartphones are threatening Dell's traditional PC business, said Skip Carruth, president of Temple, Texas-based McLane Intelligent Solutions.

"With the advent of the cloud, ubiquitous Internet access and highly-capable products such as Android phones, iPhones, iPads and their ilk, Dell no longer had an audience because desktops and laptops have become increasingly unnecessary," Carruth said. "Dell never received the support of the channel because they never earned the channel’s trust. So what’s left? Rekindle the marketing to the consumer."

The 8 GB Venue Pro is priced at $450 and the 16 GB Venue Pro is available for $500 without a contract.

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