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Dell phone — back to the drawing board?

Mar 23, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Dell has put its plans to release a smartphone on the back burner, according to a research note published Friday. “It ultimately came down to a lack of carrier interest,” Kaufman Brothers analyst Shaw Wu is quoted as saying by our sister publication eWEEK.

(Click here for a larger view of the Axim x51v, Dell's previous Windows Mobile device)

According to a January report by the Wall Street Journal, Dell was set to announce a customizable Windows Mobile smartphone that would be available with or without a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, and would also be offered with Google's Android Linux operating system. Dell representatives spent much of last year meeting with suppliers of phone components, phone software companies, and Asian phone manufacturers, the publication added.

Palm's upcoming Pre
(Click image for further information)

But, writes Wu in the note quoted by eWEEK, “We hear Dell built prototypes with both Windows and Android operating systems, but the feedback was lack of differentiation versus current and upcoming products from HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Motorola, etc.” Having failed to find interest from carriers, Dell is going back to the drawing board to design a more distinctive device, Wu reportedly added.

As eWEEK notes, a particularly fearsome competitor for any newly released smartphone will be the Palm Pre (above right), expected to be available by Jun. 30. (For complete details of the eagerly-anticipated Pre, including interesting screenshots of its Linux-based WebOS operating system, see our previous coverage, here.)


What might Dell have brought to an already-crowded smartphone marketplace? A separate report on the Silicon Alley Insider website, citing “a few tips from someone who claims to be close to Dell,” says the manufacturer will distinguish itself by making the devices highly customizable, just as it does with its PCs.

In their WSJ article, authors Julian Scheck and Yukari Kane made the following claims, supporting their contention that Dell will eventually enter the smartphone business:

  • Dell's share of the PC market was down to 13.7 percent last quarter, according to IDC
  • Smartphone phone sales in 2008 were up 27 percent year-over-year, again quoting IDC
  • In 2007, Dell hired Ron Garriques, the “former phone chief” at Motorola, to head its consumer products efforts
  • Former Motorola employee John Thode oversees Dell's development of netbooks, and has also secretly headed Dell's phone development group, “according to people briefed on the matter”

The suggestion that a new Dell smartphone would run Windows Mobile also seems highly credible. Dell has always had a close relationship with Microsoft, and previously offered an “Axim” range of Windows Mobile PDAs (personal digital assistants).

While the Axim range is now discontinued, the devices were ahead of their time in many ways, and have a distinct following among eBay buyers. The Axim X51V pictured at the top of our story, for example, was released more than four years ago, yet it featured a 3.7-inch VGA display, a 624MHz PXA270 processor, Bluetooth, WiFi, and an optional GPS receiver.

Further information

To read the January article in The Wall Street Journal by Julian Scheck and Yukari Kane, see the publication's website, here [entire content available only to paid subscribers]. To read the Silicon Alley Insider report by Dan Frommer, see here.

To read's report on Shaw Wu's research note for Kaufman Brothers, go here.

This article was originally published on and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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